Peafowl is the term given to two species of birds which are members of the pheasant family. The Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) is a native bird to the Indian subcontinent and the Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus) breeds from east Burma to Java. Males are known as ‘Peacocks’ and females as ‘Peahens’.
The Peacock is the national bird of India. Peacocks are well known for their magnificent, beautiful tail feather displays during courtship.
The Peacocks brilliant ‘train’ contains over 200 shimmering feathers, each one decorated with eyespots. The male Indian Peacock has iridescent coloring of blue and green on its head, neck and breast. Their long ‘trains’ are not the tail quill feathers but elongated upper tail feather coverts. The train is bronze and green and has a series of ‘eyes’ which are more prominent when the tail is fanned.
The male Indian Peafowls actual tail feathers are short and grey in color and can only be seen from behind when the tail is extended and fully fanned. The males display their beautiful, fanned trains as part of their courtship behavior to the Peahens. During molting season, the males shed their train feathers and their grey quill feathers are more obvious.
Females lack the bright colors of the male and have a duller appearance which is common in many other bird species. Peahens are generally brown in color with lighter underparts. They also lack the long upper tail coverts. They may have some iridescent green coloring on their neck.
Both male and female Peafowl have crests on top of their heads which are also present on the Green Peafowl species. Green Peafowl differ in appearance to the Indian Peafowl in that the male has a green and gold plumage and their wings are black with a sheen of blue.
Unlike the Indian Peafowl, Green Peahens are similar to the Green Peacocks only having shorter upper tail feather coverts and slightly less iridescent in some parts. In the months where the male has no train, it is difficult to tell females and males apart.
Peafowl are large birds with males measuring up to 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) in length and females being smaller at 86 centimeters (34 inches) in length. The tail length of the male Peafowl can be 4 – 5 feet.
Peacocks weigh 9 – 13 pounds and Peahens weigh 6 – 9 pounds. Like other members of Galliformes, both male and female Peafowl have sharp, powerful metatarsal spurs also known as ‘kicking thorns’ which they use to defend themselves against predators. Their legs are strong, and they have 3 strong toes facing forward and one facing backwards. Because their wing surface to bodyweight ratio is not large, most species are incapable of long flights.
Apart from the Indian and the Green Peafowl, 1 or 2 mutations have been developed by those kept in captivity. One of them is a white Peafowl species called the Indian White Peafowl. Another species found in the rainforests of Central Africa is the Congo Peafowl.
Peachicks are born weighing 3.6 ounces (103 grams), fully feathered and can fly within a couple of weeks. They must learn to fly quite soon in order to stay with their mothers when roosting in trees to ensure survival from predators. Peachicks are taught how to eat and how to make a variety of sounds by the Peahen. Under the age of 1-year, young birds are called ‘Peachicks’. A male's train of feathers will not be present for 3 years and will develop over this time. The life span of a healthy Peafowl can be 40 – 50 years.