Bright tails and bushy hides

A peacock displaying to a peahen.
A peacock displaying to a peahen.

It is that time of year again when our peacocks begin displaying to the peahens to try and attract their attention for breeding.

We have some young males within our group so they may be a bit unsure as to how and who to display to! One young male was recently seen displaying to a pigeon. Maybe he was just practising and preparing himself! Our peafowl are free roaming so they are very easy to spot whilst walking around the zoo. They are very friendly which is why we are able to allow them to wander around the park and not keep them within an enclosure.

There are three species of peacock still living today, the Indian, Congo and Green. Our peacocks are Indian. The male Indian peacock displays a bright blue head and chest, with an array of colours on his long impressive tail feathers. These feathers can make up to two-thirds of the birds’ body length.

The purpose of the tail feathers is for the male to attract a female mate. The more impressive the feathers look, the higher the probability of him finding a mate. However there is a trade-off to how long and heavy he should make his feathers as this would restrict his mobility and ability to escape from predators. Thus it really is an example of ‘the survival of the fittest’! Females are not as brightly coloured as the males, they are a grey-brownish colour, and are better at camouflaging away from predators, particularly when sitting on eggs in a nest, which they build beneath bushes and shrubs, or occasionally in trees.

The peacocks tend to stick to a particular territory, with several females surrounding him. After mating the female will incubate fertilised eggs for 28-30 days, after which around four to six young will hatch out. These will then follow mum, feeding from her bill before eventually learning what they are able to eat; usually insects and small grubs.

Peacocks are very vocal animals. They display a selection or various calls to each other, ranging from honks to meow-like calls!

As it is the national bird of India, it is highly protected in many areas. It would face a small amount of threats in the wild such as for meat and feathers, but its population numbers are fairly abundant.

If you are visiting us this winter keep your eyes peeled for the peacocks’ magnificent displays and their fabulous calls to each other.