Peacocks are the male constituents of the peafowl species, which belongs to the pheasant family. Their colourful, iridescent plumage makes them easy to recognise. The three known peafowl species are the Indian peafowl, the green peafowl and the Congo peafowl. The Indian peafowl, India's national bird, is the most widely known.
Indian peacocks have bright blue feathers on their heads and necks. The green peacock's head and neck is covered in green feathers that are just as bright.
Peacocks of these two species drag a train of feathers 55 to 63 inches long. The San Diego Zoo compares these trains to those of wedding dresses. A distinctive feature of the train feathers are eye-like formations known as ocelli that consist of round, black spots surrounded by concentric rings of different colours.
All peacocks have crests atop their heads. Unlike its Asian relatives, however, the Congo peacock does not have a long train and its feathers do not have ocelli. The Congo have grey faces and their plumage is dark blue with streaks of metallic green and purple.
Range and Habitat
The range of the Indian peacock includes India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It lives in forests, open and stream-side, and in undergrowth.
The green peacock is found throughout Southeast Asia, predominantly on the island of Java in Indonesia and in Myanmar. They occur in different types of habitats, including tropical, deciduous and evergreen forests.
The Congo peacock--the only true pheasant native to Africa--was discovered in 1936 and is found exclusively in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the lowland rain forests of the Congo River basin.
Peafowl consume berries and grains as well as insects, small reptiles and mammals. According to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, peafowl gather most of their food early in the morning and just before sunset when the temperatures are cooler.
During the mating season, peacocks establish breeding territories near each other and compete for mates. This system is known as a lek. Peacocks are polygamous and attract females by displaying the elaborate plumage of their train in a fan-like shape. After mating, each female--known as a peahen--lays three to eight eggs that hatch after a month-long incubation period. The peahens raise the chicks without the help of the peacocks.
Behaviour and Lifestyle
Peacocks live between 15 and 20 years in the wild. According to the San Diego Zoo, they adhere to a daily routine. They forage for food in the morning in small groups, then spend the bulk of the day drinking water, resting in the shade and preening their feathers. Before sunset, when the temperature cools, they forage again for food before retreating to tall trees to roost during the night.
Peacocks are capable of emitting 11 different calls. According to the San Diego Zoo, one of their loudest vocalisation sounds like "may-awe" and is often heard during the breeding season.
As of 2010, the green peafowl and the Congo peafowl were listed as endangered and vulnerable, respectively, on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. The Indian peafowl was categorised as a species of "least concern." Threats to the peacock include hunting, habitat destruction and climate change.