Peafowl are large, colorful pheasants native to Africa and Asia. Although many people refer to peafowl of both sexes as peacocks, the term is applies only to the male birds. Females are peahens and chicks peachicks. A group of peafowl is known as a bevy or party.
Male peacocks are among the largest flying birds.
There are two Asiatic and one African species of peafowl. The species commonly kept as a pet is the Indian peafowl or blue peafowl, native to India ands Sri Lanka. The green peafowl is found in Java and Myanmar and the Congo peafowl in central Africa. Both are listed as endangered due to overhunting. It is believed there are fewer than 15,000 Congo peafowl remaining.
Like many ground-feeding birds, including chickens, males possess metatarsal spurs or "thorns" used primarily in fights over territory or mates.
Peafowl are prized for their iridescent feathers. Male Indian peacocks’ tail feathers, or coverts, spread out in a distinctive train that is more than 60 percent of the male bird’s total body length. Indian peacocks boast colorful "eye" markings of blue, gold, red, and other hues. The large train is used in mating rituals and courtship displays. It can be arched into a magnificent fan that reaches across the bird's back and touches the ground on either side.
Females are believed to choose their mates according to the size, color, and quality of these outrageous feather trains. The male achieves his full color at age 3. During mating season, males may fight or become aggressive towards their own reflections.
The beautiful colors displayed by the peacock are due to reflection and light refraction, rather than pigmentation.
White peacocks are not albinos; they have a genetic mutation known as leucism, which causes the lack of pigments in the plumage. Albino animals and birds have a complete lack of color and red or pink eyes while white peafowl have blue eyes.
Peahens are colored tan, buff or off-white and lack the large tail. Their coloration is designed as camouflage during nesting. The females lay three to 25 eggs annually that are incubated for 28 days. Because they nest on the ground, chicks and brooding females are particularly vulnerable to predators like raccoons, coyotes, dogs and cats.
Peafowl can live to be about 20 years old. They eat insects, plants, and small creatures. Domesticated birds should be fed cracked corn, wheat and game bird food, which can be supplemented with cat food, mealy worms and dark greens like kale.
Peafowl can be testy and do not mix well with other domestic birds.
For those interested in learning more about peafowl there are numerous websites dealing with the subject including www.peafowl.com, the Peafowl Information Center. The center provides help with finding homes for unwanted birds and locating lost peacocks. Among the resources offered is a compact disc of recorded peafowl calls designed to lure straying birds back home. Peafowl eggs and supplies are also available at the site.