Published on February 17, 2013 by Amy
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful birds in the world and a native of the Indian sub-continent, it is not surprising that the Peacock was anointed as the national bird of India in 1963.
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Hailing from the pheasant family, these exotic birds are cherished for their colourful plumes and eggs. The peacocks, more appropriately called peafowls, (peacock refers to the male) are found in lowland forests and hills usually in small groups consisting of one male and several females.
Peafowls are long-legged birds. The male, known as the peacock, has a blue head with green and purple highlights and a crown-like tuft. Its face has white stripes and the back is green and blue with black undersides. The extraordinarily long tails of males have strong shafts and magnificent colours and extend far beyond the tail, which has twenty feathers. They form a train with oscillate designs and the fan is supported by hidden tail feathers which are much shorter. The primary feathers and tail are of chestnut colour and the train is green with bronze and is covered with blue and green spots that appear to be eyes. The females look quite dowdy in comparison. They do not have the train but have a crown-like tuft.
Though they can fly strongly for short distances, peafowls rarely fly. They are terrestrial and roost at nights.
Omnivorous by nature, they obtain most of their food by scratching the leaf litter with their strong feet. They eat anything from seeds, grains to small reptiles. They enjoy eating young cobras.
Peafowls are polygamous and live in small families. Interestingly the mating season of peacocks coincides with the monsoon season in India. During monsoons, the male and female let out a meowing call which is commonly interpreted as `minh- ao’, which means there will be rain. With the onset of the mating season, the male displays its full trail of feathers to the females. After mating, the peahen makes a nest in the underbush and lays 4 to 8 eggs, which are incubated for about 28 days. The young ones are watched over by the peahen until they can take care of themselves.
Known for their fierce, lively and courageous tempers, the males do not get along with one another and when faced with danger the peafowls become very aggressive.
There are three types of peafowls. The Indian or blue peafowl, the green peafowl of Burma and IndoChina and a rare and aberrant form, the Congo peacock, found in the forests of Congo basin in Africa.
Because of their wonderful appearance, the peacock has long been famous outside of its native countries of Southern Asia and Malaysia, and was kept for centuries by people first in China and then in Europe. The Phoenicians brought the peacock to Egypt more than three thousand years ago. Solomon had several peacocks. Peafowl were extensively raised by the Romans for the table as well as for ornamental purposes, and medieval Europe carried on this practice as well. It is only after the XVI Century, when turkeys were imported from Mexico, that the peacock was discarded as a table bird for the more fleshy American birds. Young peacocks were also considered a delicacy in these cultures for centuries. Fortunately, few of them are used for food today, except in some of the more remote and less civilized places where they are found in nature.