Regular visitors to Flamingo Land will be familiar with the peafowl that wander freely around the zoo, but now there are even more of them! Several youngsters can now be seen roaming the zoo. The peafowl chicks hatched earlier this summer but until now have been kept indoors as a protection against possible predators.
Although they are commonly referred to as peacocks, the proper collective name for them is peafowl, as only the males are peacocks. Females are peahens. They are easily distinguished at any time of year as the males and females look quite different to one another. For a large part of the year, males can be recognised by their long, colourful tails, which they spread out to display to the females. At this time of year the males have moulted their long tail feathers but can still be identified by their brighter blue and green colouring. The females are duller in colour than the males, usually a mixture of grey, white and brown. This provides them with better camouflage, something which is very important when they are nesting. If predators are unable to spot the females, not only does that keep them safe but it also keeps the location of the nest a secret, meaning that the eggs are safe. The young are brown and yellow and both the males and females look exactly the same at first.
Peafowl are the national bird of India and are also found in nearby countries such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal. They are active during the day and naturally feed on the ground, searching for seeds, insects and fruit. However, they can fly, something that people don’t necessarily expect. Flamingo Land’s peafowl can often be seen perching on fences or even wandering about on the roofs of buildings. They are quite noisy birds and can be heard calling throughout the day.
Peahens typically lay four to six eggs in a shallow scrape in the ground. The eggs are incubated for about 30 days and the chicks stay close to their mother for at least 7-9 weeks after hatching. Peafowl are still common in their native lands and are not considered to be at any risk of extinction. The meat and eggs from peafowl are not often eaten, although in medieval times a peacock might have been found on a king’s table, as much for display as for actual food.