Pavo cristatus or Indian Peafowl are classified as part of the pheasant family and have been admired and revered by many cultures for millennia because of the beautiful plumage displayed by the peacock, the male of the species. The female is the peahen and does not enjoy the same attention due to her rather somber colouring.
The blue peacock originates in, and can be found distributed throughout, the sub continent of India and Sri Lanka and was, in fact, designated as the national bird of India in 1963. Hindu culture and mythology are replete with stories and representations of the peacock which celebrate this beautiful bird.
Since the peacock is well known to most people, a detailed description is not necessary however; a few facts about this fascinating bird may be of interest.
A number of peafowl together is called a party. Peacocks use their distinctive tail feathers and large coverts with eye markings to attract the females in courting and mating. They often mate with several females which may each lay 3-5 eggs. Peacocks are ground feeders and are omnivorous.
White peacocks are not albinos as is often thought, but their colouring is due to a genetic mutation. To the ancient Greeks, peacocks were a symbol of immortality as they believed that the flesh of these birds did not decay after death. Many other cultures and religions, including Babylonia and Persia, used the peacock as a symbol of the universe, immortality and omniscience.
As well as the well-known blue peacock, there is a green species (Pavo muticus) which inhabits Java, Burma and other parts of South East Asia.
A third species, the Congo Peacock (Afropavo congenisis) of Central Africa, is less well known and not as showy as the others.
The term ‘peacock’ has also come to denote a showy person, invariably male, who dresses and acts flashily. It is interesting to note, however, that in modern society the role of displaying for the attention of the opposite sex seems to have been usurped by the female of the species, Homo sapiens. Elaborate hairdos, fashionable clothing, cosmetics, perfumes and jewelry are all part of the female’s battery in her efforts to attract a mate.
A role reversal worth closer examination, perhaps?