Peacocks are showy, flashy birds that are known for their large tail plumage, brightly coloured heads and proud avian strut. From the pheasant family of birds, peacocks are the male version of the group known as peafowl (the females are called peahens), and are famous for their large courting display of billowing tail feathers covered in blue-green "eyes." Though available in a wide variety of colours and sizes, peafowl are comprised of only three species of birds.
Indian peafowl image by Madrider from Fotolia.com
The most recognisable peacock species, the Indian peacock is native to India, Sri Lanka and other parts of eastern Asia. The peacocks of the species display the famous tail plumage used in courting rituals and have bright, blue heads and crest colourings. The bright colouring and large tail feathers are used to attract peahens and size up against other peacocks. Indian peahens are a muted brown colour with green or blue heads and smaller tail sections that serve as camouflage when caring for peachicks under bushes or foliage.
peacock image by Fotocie from Fotolia.com
The Green peacock, also known as the Javanese peacock, is native to the Indonesian island of Java in south east Asia. Green peacocks are similar to Indian peacocks in that they have large, brightly coloured trains and use the feathers in courting rituals. The heads and crests of green peacocks are a deep green colour rather than blue, making them distinguishable from Indian peacocks. Green peahens are also brightly coloured with green hues that are only slightly more muted than their male counterparts, however, like Indian peahens, the green variety does not have a long train of tail feathers.
peacock image by Vera Kailova from Fotolia.com
Through selective breeding and mutations, peacocks exist outside of the normal realm of Indian and green peacock colouring. The white peacock is not an albino, but rather a product of leucism (dimming of skin and feather pigments) and is entirely white from crest to train. Other breeding variations have created peacocks that are black, brown, yellow and purple and are all simple variations or mutations from standard green or Indian peacocks.
peacock chicks image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com
A relatively recent discovery, the Congo peacock is an African native that more closely resembles typical pheasants than their flashy peacock brethren. Absent of elongated, brightly coloured trains and coloured blue, the males are of small stature compared to other species. The peahens of the Congo are dappled green and brown, resembling young versions of green or Indian peacocks. Though not much is known about the endangered Congo peafowl, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums has set up a program to help preserve and maintain their habitat and populations.