name = Peafowl

image_width = 250px
image_caption = An Indian Blue Peacock (rear) courts a peahen (front)
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Aves
ordo = Galliformes
familia = Pavoninidae
genus = Rheinardiasubdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = "Rheinardia ocellata"

"Rheinardia nigrescens"

genus = Argusianussubdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = "Argusianus greyi"

Argusianus argus"

genus = Afropavo

'Afropavo congensis"

genus = "Pavo"
Linnaeus, 1758
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = 'Pavo antiquus"
'Pavo annamensis"
'Pavo spicifer"
"'Pavo javanensis"
'Pavo imperator"
"Pavo cristatus"

The term peafowl refers to Gallinaceous Birds classified within the genera Rheinardia, Argusianus, Afropavo,and Pavo. Formerly classified as members of the Phasianidae, it is now established that the Phasianidae do not share the same ancestry. Peafowl and their allies are a very ancient isolated group with no near allies.

Peafowl are large birds with long necks and legs, heavy squarish wings and elongated tails. Adult males of most genera can be distinguished from females by their extremely elongated and highly specialized dorsal plumage. Adult males of the two species of Great Argus exhibit highly specialized wing coverts which give them the largest wing surface area of any living bird. The Great Argus male's wing is shaped rather like a moth's and is patterned very much like a python. Some native cultures in Burma and Thailand refer to the Great Argus as "Python Moth Bird" for this reason. The Great Argus male also exhibits extremely elongated tail feathers (retrice plumes) which are twisted at their ends. Each of the two central retrices resemble snake heads in silhouette, a feature best appreciated in shadows cast by the tail when the birds stand in stationary alert posture. When in this posture the tail is held high in a carriage not unlike a bantam rooster. The elongated retrices jut out and the bird raises them as if to broadcast the presence of the two feathered "heads". The female Great Argus is essenitally similar to the male but smaller, brighter in colour and without the greatly elongated wing and tail plumage. The female Great Argus also exhibits much more feathering along the back of the head and neck.

Males of the two species of Crested Argus lack the greatly elongated wing coverts of their cousins the Great Argus but their wings are very large for their body size. Adult male Crested Argus also exhibit enormous tail feathers just as long as the Great Argus but at least twice as wide. The entire tail is elongated, not only the central retrices. Like the Great Argus, the Crested Argus Male is most striking in prolonged flight. Crested Argus fly in pairs and also with their juvenile offspring in the manner of typical Peafowl. Great Argus may also fly in pairs.Great Argus exhibit complex flight displays in which the female participates.Congo and Green Peafowls also exhibit flight displays. The Indian Peafowl's flight displays are evidentially reduced to stereotypical jumps and glides.

Peafowl differ from most other gallinaceous birds in their habit of gathering on emergent trees well above the canopy in primeval forest habitats or on single tall trees towering over tropical grasslands. Their incubation periods are comparatively long - from 28-34 days. Like other large bodied primitive Gallinates, such as the distantly related Megapodes and Cracides, all members of the Peafowl family are capable of making sustained flights of several yards within a few days of hatching. They are born with perfectly formed flight feathers. Junglefowl, Francolins, Partridges, Quail, Pheasants and Grouses develop their wing feathers later than peafowl and are not capable of sustained flight until they are at least one week old. Monals and Tragopans are born with developed flight feathers and they too can sustain flight before they are one week old. Peafowl have unique musculature of the leg, tail and breast that distinguish them from other Gallinates. Their hind toes are longer than other Old World Gallinates (except for members of the Genus Polyplectron which are believed to be distantly related).

While Peafowl are born with developed flight feathers they require a great deal of parental care, which is provided by both parents of all species except captive populations of the Indian Peafowl. Their markedly delayed maturity is another unique characteristic of peafowl that is in keeping with the offspring's prolonged relationships with their parents.

Adult males provided Charles Darwin with the very embodiment of his Theory of Sexual Selection. This theory was based on the behaviors of captive-bred Indian Peafowl living in England. Darwin believed that the adult male displayed his beautiful train feathers to attract a mate and that he played no role in nest defense or chick rearing. In fact, of all the Galliform birds, the adult male Peafowl may have the most - rather than the least - invested in nest defense.

The Adult Male Peafowl defends the nest site against reptiles and other predators.Monitor Lizards, Cobras, Pythons and opportunistic predators like civets and monkeys all pose the worst threats to the Peahen, especially when she is incubating the clutch on or near the ground. The males defend the nest site and the foraging territories of their mates. The juvenile offspring of previous seasons closely resemble their mothers and often participate in helping the parents rear the next clutch. For this reason early Western naturalists assumed that the males kept "harems" of females.The territory-holding male actually provides more care of the young than the female, as he watches over the youngsters until they are fully adult while their mother is done with them in their first dry season (winter). The helper system is more pronounced in some genera and species than others.

The two species are:
*Indian Peafowl, "Pavo cristatus" (Asiatic)
*Green Peafowl, "Pavo muticus" (Asiatic)

The Indian Peafowl is a resident breeder in the Indian subcontinent. The peacock is designated as the national bird of India.

The Green Peafowl or Dragonbirds breed from Burma east to Java. The IUCN lists the Green Peafowl as vulnerable to extinction due to hunting and a reduction in extent and quality of habitat.


The Indian Peafowl is monotypic, while the Green Peafowl has 3 subspecies, "P. muticus spicifer", "P. m. imperator" and the nominate "P. m. muticus". [Madge, S. and P. McGowan (2002) Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse ISBN 0-7136-3966-0] The two species are largely allopatric but will hybridize in captivity.

While the form of Green Peafowl in Yunnan is not separated taxonomically, it differs in a few aspects from other forms, particularly in its forest-dwelling habits, an "odd, monal-like bill," a curiously long hind toe and longer, more slender wings (K. B. Woods in litt. 2000) [ [] ] . Some have suggested this is a new subspecies.

Some pheasant breeders have suggested that the Green Peafowl may have more subspecies. [ [ Pfauenzucht Mennig ] ] [ [ PDF in German] ]

Peafowl have sometimes been included in a distinct family from Pheasants [ [ WPA - Deutschland ] ] .


The male (peacock) Indian Peafowl has iridescent blue-green or green coloured plumage. The so-called "tail" of the peacock, also termed the "train," is not the tail quill feathers but highly elongated upper tail coverts. The train feathers have a series of eyes that are best seen when the tail is fanned. Both species have a crest atop the head.

The female (peahen) Indian Peafowl has a mixture of dull green, brown, and grey in her plumage. She lacks the long upper tail coverts of the male but has a crest. The female can also display her plumage to ward off female competition or danger to her young.

The Green Peafowl is very different in appearance to the Indian Peafowl. The male has green and gold plumage and has an erect crest. The wings are black with a sheen of blue.

Unlike the Indian Peafowl, the Green Peahen is very similar to the male, only having shorter upper tail coverts and slightly less iridescent in some regions. Like other peafowl, it is very difficult to distinguish a juvenile male from an adult female. Moreover, the sexes of the various Green Peafowl species are almost impossible to tell apart in the field during the months when the male has no train.

Many of the brilliant colours of the peacock plumage are due to an optical interference phenomenon (Bragg reflection) based on (nearly) periodic nanostructures found in the barbules (fiber-like components) of the feathers.

Different colours correspond to different length scales of the periodic structures. For brown feathers, a mixture of red and blue is required: one colour is created by the periodic structure, and the other is a created by a Fabry-Perot interference peak from reflections off the outermost and innermost boundaries of the periodic structure.

Such interference-based "structural colour" is especially important in producing the peacock's iridescent hues (which shimmer and change with viewing angle), since interference effects depend upon the angle of light, unlike chemical pigments.


The peafowl are forest birds that nest on the ground. The "Pavo" peafowl are terrestrial feeders but roost in trees.

Both species of Peafowl are believed to be polygamous. However, it has been suggested that "females" entering a male Green Peafowl's territory [ [ Gallery :: SOUTHERN spicifer{Irrawady basin and southern Burma to the Salween drainage basin. This is the nominate form Pavo spicifer spicifer :: 19 ] ] are really his own juvenile or subadult young (K. B. Woods in litt. 2000) and that Green Peafowl are really monogamous in the wild. The male peacock flares out its feathers when it is trying to get the females attention. Those who subscribe to this notion cite the similarities between the sexes.

During mating season they will often emit a very loud high pitched cry.


Peafowl are omnivorous and eat ticks, termites, ants,locusts, mice, plant parts, flower petals, seed heads, scorpions and other arthropods, reptiles, and amphibians.

In common with other members of the Galliformes, males of most species and females of all but two species, possess powerful, wickedly sharp, metatarsal spurs or "kicking thorns" used primarily to protect themselves against predators and to a lesser extent during intraspecific fights.


Asiatic peafowl like the Indian Blue Peafowl, and especially the Green Peafowl, occupy a similar niche as the roadrunners, Secretary Bird, and seriemas. All of these birds hunt for small animals including arthropods on the ground and tall grass and minnows in shallow streams.

Because of human encroachment into their natural territories, peafowl and humans have come into increasing contact. Because of their natural beauty some are reluctant to classify the birds as pests but their presence can be disturbing.

Feral populations

Peafowl have left captivity and developed permanent, free-roaming populations in several parts of the world including Coconut Grove, Miami, Florida and Arcadia, California.


Indian Peafowl

Green Peafowl


* Kimball, Rebecca T., Edward L. Braun, and J. David Ligon (1997). Resolution of the Phylogenetic Position of the Congo Peafowl, Afropavo congensis: A Biogeographic and Evolutionary Enigma. Proceedings: Biological Sciences, vol. 264 (1387), pp. 1517-1523
* van Balen, S., Prawiradilaga, D. M. and Indrawan, M. (1995) The distribution and status of Green Peafowl in Java. Biol. Conserv. 71: 289-297.

External links

* [ Zoonomen - Zoological Nomenclature Resource] — World Birds Taxonomic List as of 2006-09-26
* [ Peafowl Varieties Database]
* [ The Peacock Pages: All About Peacocks!] , An article by Lisa Johnson from the "Game Bird and Conservationists' Gazette" — Aspects of the cultural role of peafowl and their place in aviculture.
* [ United Peafowl Association Knowledge Base]
* "Behavioural Ecologists Elucidated How Peahens Choose Their Mates, And Why", an article at []
* Peafowl videos on the [ Internet Bird Collection]
* [ Peacock] — Etymology of the word
* [ Video of a peacock showing of his plumage]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • peafowl — [pē′foul΄] n. pl. peafowls or peafowl any of various large gallinaceous birds (family Phasianidae) of S Asia, the East Indies, or Africa, as the peacock: now widely domesticated as an ornamental bird …   English World dictionary

  • Peafowl — Pea fowl , n. [See {Peacock}.] (Zo[ o]l.) The peacock or peahen; any species of Pavo. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • peafowl — ► NOUN ▪ a peacock or peahen …   English terms dictionary

  • peafowl — /pee fowl /, n., pl. peafowls, (esp. collectively) peafowl. any of several gallinaceous birds of the genera Pavo, of India, Sri Lanka, southeastern Asia, and the East Indies, and Afropavo, of Africa. Cf. peacock, peahen. [1795 1805; pea (see… …   Universalium

  • peafowl — povai statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Pavo angl. peafowl vok. Pfau, m rus. павлин, m pranc. paon, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas – fazanai siauresnis terminas – paprastasis povas siauresnis terminas – žaliasis povas …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • peafowl — noun Etymology: pea (as in peacock) + fowl Date: 1804 either of two very large terrestrial pheasants (Pavo cristatus and P. muticus) of southeastern Asia and India that are often reared as ornamental fowls …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • peafowl — noun /ˈpiːˌfaʊl/ A pheasant of the genus Pavo or Afropavo, notable for the extravagant tails of the males; a peacock. The cry is meow (like cats), kee o or iyaan . See Also: peacock, peahen, peachick …   Wiktionary

  • peafowl — pea|fowl [ˈpi:faul] n a peacock or peahen …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • peafowl — n. female peacock …   English contemporary dictionary

  • peafowl — noun a large crested pheasant of which the male is the peacock and the female the peahen. [Pavo cristatus (southern Asia) and other species.] …   English new terms dictionary

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