Male Peacock in full display.
Although the name “Peacock” is used to refer to both the male and female of these gorgeous birds, it really is only the name of the male Peafowl. The scientific name is Pavo cristatus and it is the national bird of India, having originated in the subcontinent. This nationally acclaimed status is not only appropriate for its undeniable beauty (particularly that of the males), but also because Peafowl have long been revered for the religious, cultural and social esteem that they infer to their owner or society. Although Peafowl can now be found all over the world, India’s population are most commonly living in the area around the Indus River, the south of Mizoram, Jammu and Kashmir, east Assam and the Indian Peninsula.
Peafowl have a pheasant-like body; that is, tapered towards the head and tail. They are approximately one metre in length (although males may get slightly larger). The Peacock is characterised by his upper tail coverts, which form a breath-taking fan of iridescent blue, purple, green and gold designs. While this glorious spectacle usually drags on the ground behind him like the train of a wedding gown, he lifts it in full display when he is trying to attract the attention of a female. The vibrant colours on his fanned train resemble eyes along the edges and the entire ‘tail’ is longer than the body of the bird (that is, in excess of one metre). These feathers are actually long extensions growing from the back of the bird, and not a tail, as some believe. As the Peahen looks at the male, she assesses his health based on the condition of his fanned feathers and intricate designs. She, on the other hand, is generally a greyish colour with a slightly green tinge and iridescent blue markings. However, she is far more ‘dull’ in appearance than her male counterpart because she has the important task of protecting and concealing the chicks, so camouflage is of utmost importance. She does not have the fanned feathers of the Peacock.
Peafowl enjoy the open forests, stream-side forests and orchards as their habitat. However, when sailors and explorers first arrived in India and spotted this exquisite creature, many of them took some of these birds home (wherever in the world that was) as gifts. Today, they are fairly adaptable to their habitats.
Indian Peafowl forage in their habitat for insects, seeds, berries, grains, small reptiles, and so on. They usually feed in the cooler parts of the day (morning and evening), while they spend the hot, sunny time in the shade and shelter of forests or trees.
Because the Peafowl plays an integral role in the national, religious and mythological identity of India, it enjoys protection from the governmental and environmental organisations. This means that it does not experience the susceptibility to hunting etc… that affects other animals. In addition, it is particularly adaptable, able to thrive in various different environments. This is beneficial when it comes to urbanisation, as its shrinking natural habitat does not necessitate the depletion of a species, but merely an adaptation. They are also able to live within close proximity, or even among, human beings and their settlements, which increases their possible territory exponentially. As a versatile, beautiful and protected species, the Indian Peafowl are sure to delight locals and visitors alike with their natural aesthetics and mystical charm.