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Indian Peafowl
Male (peacock)
Female (peahen)
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Genus: Pavo
Species: P. cristatus
Binomial name
Pavo cristatus
Linnaeus, 1758

The Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus, also known as the Common Peafowl or the Blue Peafowl, is one of two species of bird in the genus Pavo of the Phasianidae family known as peafowl. The peacock is the national bird of India [2] and the provincial bird of the Punjab (Pakistan).

Contents

Distribution and habitat

The Indian Peafowl is a resident breeder in the Indian subcontinent and has been introduced into many parts of the world; feral populations exist in many countries.

The species is found in dry semi-desert grasslands, scrub and deciduous forests. It forages and nests on the ground but roosts in trees.

Peacock "tail feathers" are really upper tail coverts

Description

Females are about 86 cm (34 in) long and weigh 2.75–4 kg (6-8.8 lbs), while males average at about 2.12 m (7.3 ft) in full breeding plumage (107 cm/42 in when not) and weigh 4–6 kg (8.8-13.2 lbs). The male is called a peacock, the female a peahen. The Indian Peacock has iridescent blue-green plumage. The upper tail coverts on its back are elongated and ornate with an eye at the end of each feather. These are the Peacock's display feathers. The female plumage is a mixture of dull green, grey and iridescent blue, with the greenish-grey predominating. In the breeding season, females stand apart by lacking the long 'tail feathers' also known as train, and in the non-breeding season they can be distinguished from males by the green colour of the neck as opposed to the blue on the males.

Peafowl are most notable for the male's extravagant display feathers which, despite actually growing from their back, are known as a 'tail' or train. This train is in reality not the tail but the enormously elongated upper tail coverts. The tail itself is brown and short as in the peahen. The colours result from the micro-structure of the feathers and the resulting optical phenomena.[3]

The ornate train is believed to be the result of female sexual selection as males raised the feathers into a fan and quiver it as part of courtship display. Many studies have suggested that the quality of train is an honest signal of the condition of males and that peahens select males on the basis of their plumage. More recent studies however, suggest that other cues may be involved in mate selection by peahens.[4] [5][6]

Indian Peahen with Immatures at Hodal in Faridabad District of Haryana, India

Behaviour

Breeding

They lay a clutch of 4-8 eggs which take 28 days to hatch. The eggs are light brown and are laid every other day usually in the afternoon. The male does not assist with the rearing, and is polygamous with up to six hens.

Feeding

Peafowl eat seeds, insects, fruits, small mammals and reptiles.

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Conservation and status

Hybridisation

The Indian Peafowl can hybridise with the closely related Green Peafowl, Pavo muticus, in captivity and creates offspring called "Spauldings" or "Spaldings". The original "Spalding" was a hybrid between a female of the black-shouldered mutation of the Indian Peafowl, with a male of the nominate Java subspecies of the Green Peafowl, though some believe it was really a cross between a black-shouldered male with a Green Peafowl hen of the subspecies imperator.

Even though there is no natural range overlap, hybridisation occurs in the wild when feral populations of one of the species overlaps another species. Hybridisation has created some concern as the Green Peafowl is endangered.

Poaching

Poaching of peacocks for their feathers and poisoning by feeding on pesticide treated seeds are known threats to wild birds.[7] Methods to identify if feathers have been plucked or have been shed naturally have been developed.[8] Under the law, collection of tail feathers is allowed only when the bird sheds them.[citation needed]

In New Zealand, peafowl have done extremely well to the point of becoming agricultural pests. There are no regulations on hunting or harvesting the birds for food and feathers.

Cultural significance

India

Yezidi depiction of Melek Taus

Hindu mythology describes the peafowl as the vahan or the vehicle for Karthikeya, also called Murugan, the brother of Ganesha, the goddess Saraswati, and the goddess Mahamayuri.

The main figure of the Kurdish religion Yezidism, Melek Taus, is most commonly depicted as a peacock. The Yezidi's claim Indian origins.[9]


Indian Peacock (called Mayura in Sanskrit) has enjoyed a fabled place in India since ancient times. In imagery Lord Krishna is always represented wearing a peacock feather tucked in his headband.

Peafowl often live in proximity to humans. Ancient kings in India were said to have gardens to raise peafowl where guests were invited to see the peacock dance during the mating season. Due to this close relationship with humans for thousands of years, they have entered ancient Indian stories, songs and poems as symbols of beauty and poise. As the mating season coincides with the onset of monsoon rains and the month of Shravan in the Hindu calendar, many songs of rains have peacock-dance mentioned in them. One possible origins of the name of the famous Maurya dynasty of ancient India is probably derived from the word Mayura as the ancestors of the Mauryas are thought to be peafowl-keepers of a royal court in eastern India.

Pets

In medieval times, the Mughals of India fell in love with this bird, and started keeping them in their famous gardens. They can be companion animals but there may be problems with dogs, cats and other pets. They may roam, roost or mess on adjoining property. Peafowl have been called "urban guard dogs" because their distinctive cries can act as a warning of approaching people. Several British stately homes keep peafowl in the grounds.

Logos

Male displaying

Other

Indian Peafowl (white mutation). Jardin des Plantes, Paris.
  • Lord Krishna's Crown always has a peacock's feather.
  • According to Greek mythology, the "eyes" on the tail of a peacock were placed there by Hera to commemorate her faithful watchman, Argus who had a hundred eyes (Ovid I, 625).
  • In two epic poems of Kalidasa (Meghaduta and Kumarasambhava) the beauty of the peacock has been used as an ornate literary tool.
  • The Jataka tales Mahamayur Jataka (491) describing the earlier birth of Bhagavan Buddha describe it in the form of a golden peacock. There is an interesting story about the Golden peacock. Another of these tales record that intrepid Indian traders going as far as Babylon used to take peacocks with them, and had to sell them to the native population on request.
  • In the local folktales of India the peacock has a special place. A Punjabi folktale tells of a Queen requesting her husband not to hunt peacocks, saying that the peacock is her brother.
  • In the Mayuri subtribe of Bhils in India, women take out their veils whenever they see a peacock and they are worshipped during festivals.

See also

References

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2009) Pavo cristatus In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. www.iucnredlist.org Retrieved on 2010-02-15.
  2. ^ "National Bird". Govt. of India Official website. http://india.gov.in/knowindia/national_bird.php. 
  3. ^ Blau, S.K. (2004). "Light as a Feather: Structural Elements Give Peacock Plumes Their Color" ( – Scholar search). Physics Today 57 (1): 18–20. doi:10.1063/1.1650059. http://www.aip.org/pt/vol-57/iss-1/p18.html. 
  4. ^ Grimmett, R.; Inskipp, C., and Inskipp, T. (1999). Birds of India: Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-04910-6. http://www.pupress.princeton.edu/titles/6808.html. 
  5. ^ Loyau, A.; Saint Jalme, M., and Cagniant, C. (2005-05-03). "Multiple sexual advertisements honestly reflect health status in peacocks (Pavo cristatus)". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Springer Berlin / Heidelberg) 58 (6): 552–557. doi:10.1007/s00265-005-0958-y. ISSN 0340-5443 (Print); ISSN 1432-0762 (Online). http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=j705122208485740. Retrieved 2006-09-27. 
  6. ^ Takahashi, M.; Arita, H., Hiraiwa-Hasegawa, M., Hasegawa, T. (2008). "Peahens do not prefer peacocks with more elaborate trains". Animal Behaviour 75 (4): 1209–1219. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2007.10.004. 
  7. ^ JP Alexander (1983) Probable diazinon poisoning in peafowl: a clinical description. Vet Rec., 113(20):470
  8. ^ Sahajpal, V., Goyal, S.P. 2008 Identification of shed or plucked origin of Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) tail feathers: Preliminary findings. Science and Justice 48 (2):76-78
  9. ^ http://www.yeziditruth.org/the_peacock_angel

External links


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