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World Peacock Day-Nov 15-Special
The peacock is an easily recognizable bird due to its stunning and vibrant plumage. Surprisingly, this bird is a group of birds with significant variations. Exploring the various types of peacock species and subspecies is a journey through natural diversity. Each kind has unique characteristics, habitat adaptations, behaviours, and feeding habits that set them apart in the avian world. To start, these birds are called peafowl. Females are peahens, while males are peacocks. However, colloquially, we refer to both sexes as peacocks.
The three peafowl species
In the Phasianidae family, only three species are types of peafowl. The first two described below are from Asia, and the third is a native of Africa. Meanwhile, a hybrid between the two Asian species is called a Spalding peacock. Meanwhile, mutations could also occur when mating. The United Peafowl Association has recognized 225 species of peacock breeds to distinguish different colour morphs and peafowl plumage.
Indian Peacock (Pavo cristatus)
Our first species is the Indian peacock, also commonly called common peafowl and blue peafowl. Males have colourful plumage with blues, greens, and gold, while Indian peahens have brown backs and white bellies. It is the national bird of India, often showcased at cultural and religious events in the Indian subcontinent. This type of peacock also inhabits Shri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal. Indian Peafowls inhabit diverse environments, including semi-desert grasslands and deciduous forests. They can also adapt to human-altered landscapes. Aside from the elaborate presentation, the Indian peacock has a distinctive, loud call to lure the Indian peahen during the mating season. It also indicates agitation and the presence of predators.
Green Peacock (Pavo muticus)
The Green Peafowl is indigenous to Southeast Asia, with a habitat stretching from Myanmar to Java. They can thrive in various environments, such as dense forests, open grasslands, and riverside areas. This bird is known for its colourful plumage, which includes shades of green, gold, blue, and black. They also have an iridescent fan of tail feathers. Unlike Indian peacocks, both sexes of this species are almost similar. The differences are Green peahens have shorter tail coverts, while peacocks have longer ones with eyespots. Unfortunately, IUCN considers these peacocks endangered due to habitat conversion and widespread hunting for their meat and feathers.
Congo Peacock (Afropavo congensis)
The Congo Peafowl is Africa's only representative of the Phasianidae family, including pheasants and partridges. They live in the Congo Basin's lowland rainforests and secondary forests, where they prefer to maintain seclusion. Like the Indian peafowl, they are also the national bird of their home country. Congo Peacocks have red necks, white hair-like feathers at the head, black tails, and deep blue plumage with hints of metallic green and violet hues. On the other hand, females are slightly smaller, with mostly reddish-brown feathers and metallic green ones at the upper part.
Types of peacock subspecies and variants
1. Javanese Peafowl (Pavo muticus muticus): Commonly called the Java Green Peafowl, the Javanese Peafowl lives in the heart of Indonesia on the island of Java. It has an eye-catching plumage that features shades of emerald and gold—its colours shimmer and dance when the tropical sun shines down on it. The Javanese peahens have subdued green and brown hues that provide camouflage for their nests, carefully hidden in the thick jungle foliage. Additionally, the peacocks have tall crests with long, flowing feathers, adding to their majestic appearance. During the courtship dance, the males display their feathers, extending up to 6 feet, distinguishing them from their Indian Peafowl relatives.
2. Burmese Peafowl (Pavo muticus imperator)
The Burmese Peafowl inhabits Myanmar, whose name comes from its native habitat. They usually live alone or in small family units and prefer habitats like dense forests, grasslands near water, and bamboo thickets. Likewise, its plumage has iridescent blue-green hues, giving it an almost imperial look and earning it the nickname "Imperial Peafowl". Meanwhile, peahens have shorter tails and less flashy colours. This peacock type also has extravagant feather trains reaching up to 5 feet. The Burmese Peafowl is a ground-dwelling bird that feeds on insects, small mammals, and reptiles during the day. Then, they move to the treetops at night to stay safe from potential threats.
3. Spicifer's Peafowl (Pavo muticus spicifer)
The Spicifer's Peafowl lives in northeastern parts of India, including the regions of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, and extends its reach into Myanmar and China. Peacocks have green plumage with hints of blue and gold, and during courtship, they display a train of feathers that can reach up to 5 feet long. Despite their striking appearance, they are generally shy and solitary, preferring to stay hidden amongst dense vegetation. They spend their days on the ground, foraging for seeds, fruits, insects, and small reptiles, and at night, they rest in trees.
The following types of peacocks are variants of the Indian Blue Peacocks:
4. Black-shouldered Peafowl: South Asia is home to the Black-Shouldered Peafowl, a colour variant of the Indian Peafowl. It sports dark 'shoulders' or secondary wing feathers contrasting with its metallic blue body. On the other hand, peahens are mostly cream in colour and have brown necks and some black feathers peeking through. Unlike the traditional colour palette of the peacock, this breed has a stark white underbelly. Its tail feathers are extravagant and unfurl into a magnificent fan when he dances to attract peahens. This breed was introduced to Europe and America in the 1800s.
5. White Peafowl: The Indian Peafowl has a genetic mutation called leucism, resulting in a pure white coat. This mutation does not affect eye colour, allowing the birds to have vibrant brown or black eyes contrasting with their snowy feathers. Despite the lack of iridescent colors, the White Peafowl still has intricate feather patterns and a long train that the male uses to attract a mate. The peacock fans its tail feathers during courtship and shakes them to gain the female's attention. Despite its conspicuous coloration, it skillfully avoids danger, thanks to its flying ability and preference for roosting in trees.
6. Opal Peafowl: The Opal Peafowl is a variant of the Indian Peafowl with unique feathers that shimmer soft blues, purples, greens, and silvers. Meanwhile, peahens have more subtle feathers that blend shades of greys, whites, and soft blues. Their distinctive coloration only becomes visible once the bird matures, usually around two years. Moreover, they first appeared in the 1990s in the USA.
7. Pied Peafowl: The Pied Peafowl attracts attention among bird enthusiasts because of its unique black and white plumage, distinguishing it from its non-mutated version, the Indian Peafowl. Males, in particular, have striking monochrome feathers, which they fan out in grand displays to attract mates. Females share the same pied pattern, although their colours are less vibrant. Although domesticated, they retain their wild instincts and can take short flights to escape danger or roost in trees when they need to rest.
8. Silver Pied Peafowl: The Silver Pied Peafowl is another variant with a primarily white coat with blue and green patches, a unique colour pattern known as "pied". Peahens are similar except for their gray necks. This peacock breed has a white train with a long decorative tail speckled with feathers bearing the iconic peacock eye pattern. Moreover, this variety of peafowl only lives in zoos, aviaries, and occasionally in pet collections because they result from selective breeding. They originated in 1992 in the USA and were introduced to the UK in 2011.
9. Cameo Peafowl (Pavo cristatus): Cameo Peafowls are unique Indian Blue Peafowl breeds first observed in the 1960s in the USA. Peacocks have cream-coloured plumage and dark brown necks, while peahens have similar hues but lighter. Each of their feathers is decorated with eye spots of cream.
10. Burford Bronze Peafowl: Originating in the USA in the 1980s, the Burford Bronze Peacocks is another colour variant of Indian Peacocks. They sport green iridescent necks and bronze trains.
11. Purple Peafowl: The Purple Peafowl is a variant of the Indian Blue Peafowl. It is known for its mesmerizing purple-blue cloak and deep iridescence across its neck and chest feathers. A Black-shouldered peahen produced the first Purple peafowl in 1987 in the USA.
12. Peach Peafowl: First occurred in the USA in 1991, the Peach Peafowl is a product of selective breeding, which results in soft peach-toned feathers and unique eye spots. Their colour is a result of sex-linked colour recessive genes.
13. Taupe Peafowl: The Taupe Peafowl is a variant of the Indian Peafowl with a unique taupe hue from selective breeding. First appeared in 2005, their colour turns out to be a simple recessive gene that is not sex-linked.