Peafowl are one of the world's most recognisable birds and are best known for the male's fabulous train of feathers. Correctly called a peacock, the male is usually seen displaying his train of feathers fanned out and erect in an attempt to woo a desired female. However the peacock may display the train simply to please itself or just for practice. A female peafowl is known as a peahen and unlike its colourful counterpart is a rather drab bird displaying grey and/or brown plumage.

Introduced into Mesopotamia 4000 years ago, this magnificent bird can now be seen all over the world, although its native range is restricted to India and Sri Lanka.

Peafowl are revered and protected by law in its native habitat. However, it is so common as an ornamental bird throughout the rest of the world, it would appear to be in little danger of extinction.

What do peacocks eat?

The peacock
Peafowl are creatures of habit and emerge from dense forest in the early morning to feed at its favourite spot. After they have had their fill, they move off to find water which is why peafowl always live near a convenient water source. The peacock will eat almost anything, but it will usually feed on grain, seeds, fruit and insects. Interestingly, the peacock is not averse to supplementing its diet with the odd small snake, lizard or mouse.

As dusk approaches, the peacock will return to the same watering hole for a final drink before moving off to roost in the trees for the night. Where do peacocks live? Peacocks live in small groups in hilly forest areas. They spend their days on the ground, finding shade in impenetrable thickets, returning at dusk to the trees where they roost for the night.

As they climb the trees in the late afternoon their screeching call can be heard. Incidentally, Indians believe the call of the peafowl means that there will be rain! They also believe that the iridescent 'eyes' on the peacocks tail have hypnotic qualities.

The peacock
Being sociable and much loved by people in its native habitat, peafowl can often be found around human settlements. In its truly wild state, the fabulous plumage surprisingly acts as good camouflage amongst the trees.

Peafowl have extremely regular habits. They keep to the same roost and feed in the same place day after day. The peacock will even have a specially chosen place for displaying.

Preyed upon by tiger and leopards, the peafowl often acts as an early warning system for other game animals.

It tends to notice big cats long before any other creatures do, and raises the alarm with a loud hoot.

Peacock culture

In many parts of its native range, the peafowl is considered sacred. It is the bird of the goddess of learning and the god of war. In these places it can often be seen strutting proudly around villages, sometimes even resting there.

Roast peafowl used to be considered a great delicacy, and the fabulous tail feathers have long been prized for their decorative value.

 The great beauty, adaptability and hardiness of the peafowl means that it has been introduced as an ornamental bird throughout the world. In fact, many stately homes in Britain - and a few fancy golf courses - also boast their own flock of peafowl.

Peacock Breeding

Peacock display
Many birds indulge in courtship rituals, but the peacock's must be the most spectacular. Opening up his amazing spread of tail feathers, the peacock will strut in front of a small group of peahens.

The peahen lays her eggs in a hollow in the ground. After about 28 days the eggs will hatch, and the young will begin to peck at the mothers beak, signalling that they are hungry. Instead of feeding them directly, the mother will pick up morsels of food and drop them back on the ground for the young chicks to pick up and feed themselves. Small feather crowns will appear on the head of the chicks after just one month, but it will take up to three years for the juvenile peacock's impressive train of feathers to reach full size. Incredibly, the average male train will contain over 200 feathers.

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THE VERMILLION FLYCATCHER - Pyrocephalus rubinus
Based on an article from mxm imp bv/imp ltd WILDLIFE FACT FILE

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