Peafowl (Peacock)

Peafowl (Peacock)
Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Peacock is a popular term used to refer to Peafowls, but each time you say “peacock,” you see only to the male peafowl.

Peafowl is a generic name for three different species of birds that are of the genera Pavo and Afropavo of the Phasianidae family, the pheasants and their allies.

As mentioned above, the Male peafowl is called a peacock, while the female peafowl is referred to as peahens, but both the male and female peafowl are often colloquially referred to as “peacocks.”

There are two Asiatic species of peafowl, namely the blue or Indian peafowl, which initially is of the Indian subcontinent, and the green peafowl of Southeastern Asia.

There are one African species known as the Congo peafowl, which is native to the Congo Basin only. The male peafowls are more famous than the females because of their piercing calls and majestic plumage.

The extravagant plumage is most prominent in the Asiatic species, as they have an eye-spotted “train” or “tail” of covert feathers, which are usually displayed as part of their courtship ritual.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Galliformes
  • Family: Phasianidae
  • Subfamily: Phasianinae


  • Pavo cristatus
  • Pavo muticus
  • Afropavo congensis

The functions of the peacock’s elaborate iridescent coloration and broad “train” have been the subject of serious scientific debate.

Father of the evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin suggested that the display served to attract peahens, and the appealing features of the males had evolved through sexual selection.

Also, Amotz Zahavi recently proposed in his handicap theory that these attractive features served as honest signals of the males’ fitness since males that are less-fit would be disadvantaged by the challenge of surviving with such prominent and conspicuous structures.


The Indian peacock features an iridescent green and blue plumage, mostly metallic green and blue. However, the green peacock has bronze and green body feathers.

In both species of peafowl, the females are as large as the males but do not have the train and head ornament.

The peacock “tail,” known called a “train,” is not made up of tail quill feathers but many elongated upper tail coverts. These long feathers are naturally designed with eyespots, which is best seen when a peacock fans his tail.

Both males and females of all peafowl species have a crest at the top of their heads. The Indian peahen is easily believed to be the most colorful as it has a mixture of brown, dull grey, and green in her plumage.

The female is also known to display her plumage to chase off female competition or as a sign of danger to her babies.

Green peafowl is a lot different from the Indian peafowl because the male has gold and green plumage with black wings with a blue sheen.

Unlike the Indian peafowl, the green peahen is so much like the male, only that they have a more coppery neck, shorter upper tail coverts, and overall less iridescence.

The Congo peacock male behaves differently as he does not showcase his covert feathers, but makes use of his actual tail feathers when engaging in courtship displays.

These feathers are a lot shorter than the ones of the Indian and green species, and they less pronounced ocelli. Peahens of the African and Indian species are dull grey or brown and something a combination of both.

Both male and female chicks of both sexes in all peafowl species are cryptically colored. The chicks vary between tawny and yellow, usually with patches of light tan, darker brown, and “dirty white” ivory.

Colour and pattern variations

There are hybrids between green and Indian peafowl known as Spaldings, after the person to first hybridize them successfully, Mrs. Keith Spalding. Unlike other hybrids, the Spalding is very fertile and generally enjoy hybrid vigor.

Spaldings that have a high-green phenotype do a lot better in cold temperatures than their counterpart, the cold-intolerant green peafowl, while still appearing like their green parents.

The plumage of individual Spalding varies, with some of them looking a lot more like green peafowl and some others looking so much like the blue peafowl, though they most visually bear traits of both.

Asides the wild-type “blue” coloration, different hundreds of variations in patterns and color are recognized among peafowl breeders as different morphs of the Indian Blue.

Pattern variations in hybrids include solid-wing/black shoulder (the brown and black stripes on the wing of the peafowls are instead a solid color), pied, white-eye (the ocelli in a peacock’s eye feathers feature white spots rather than black), and silver pied (a bird that is mostly white with small patches of color).

Colour variations include purple, white, Buford bronze, midnight, jade, opal, taupe, and charcoal as well as the sex-linked colors cameo, purple, peach, and Sonja’s Violeta.

The United Peafowl Association must first approve new patterns and color variations before it can be officially recognized as a morph among peafowl breeders.

Alternately-colored peahens and peacocks are born differently colored than the wild-type peafowl, and even though each unique color is easily recognizable at hatch, the peachick plumage does not always tally with their adult plumage.

Occasionally, you can find peafowls that appear with white plumage. Although there are albino peafowls, this is an infrequent occurrence, and almost all white peafowl that exists are not albinos; most of them have a genetic condition known as leucism, which causes their pigment cells not to migrate from the neural crest during their developmental stages.

Leucistic peafowl can produce pigment, but they can not deposit the pigments to their feathers. This leads to the total lack of coloration in their plumage and their blue-grey eye color.

Pied peafowl has partial leucism, where not all pigment cells fail to migrate during formation, resulting in peafowls that have color but also have some patches that have no color; they, too, come with blue-grey eyes.

True albino peafowls, on the other hand, would have a total lack of melanin, causing irises that appear red or pink. Leucistic peachicks are yellow at birth, and they become completely white as they grow older.


As with many other birds, vibrant iridescent plumage colors are not mainly pigments, but a structural coloration.

This is best explained as optical interference Bragg reflections, which is based on regular and periodic nanostructures of the barbules (these are fiber-like components) of the bird’s feathers, are what produces the peacock’s colors.

Minor changes to the natural spacing of these barbules lead to different colors. A mixture of red and blue is what leads to brown feathers: While the periodic structure forms one color, the other one is formed by a Fabry–Pérot interference peak from reflections from the inner and outer boundaries.

The structural coloration of this kind is responsible for the iridescence of the peacock’s hues. The effects of Interference depends on a light angle instead of the actual pigments.


Peafowl is naturally forest birds that roost on trees, but nest on the ground. Peafowls are terrestrial feeders. All peafowl species are believed to be polygamous.

Just like other members of the Galliformes family, the male peafowl possesses “thorns” or metatarsal spurs on their legs, which is used during intraspecific territorial battles with other members of their species.


Peafowl is omnivores and mostly feed on flower petals, plant parts, seed heads, insects, and other reptiles, arthropods, and even amphibians.

Wild peafowl looks for their food by scratching around in leaf litters either at dusk or early in the morning. They go back into the shade and security of the forests during the hottest parts of the day.

These wild birds are not selective when it comes to food, so they will eat almost anything they can dig their beak into and digest. They are active hunters of insects like crickets, ants, and termites. They also hunt millipedes and other arthropods, as well as small mammals. The Indian peafowl also feeds on small snakes.

Domesticated peafowl can be fed with bread and cracked grain like corn, and oats, they eat cooked rice, cheese, and occasionally cat food.

Keepers have noticed that peafowl enjoy protein-rich food, including different kinds of meat, larvae that infest granaries, and fruit, as well as vegetables like dark leafy greens, carrots, beans, broccoli, beets, and peas.

Peafowls are one of the most beautiful birds on earth. Though not evenly distributed around the world, stories of their majestic appearance have traveled far and wide.

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