The peacock is considered the most beautiful bird – they used to decorate the courts of kings and sultans, even despite their bad voice, and sometimes their temper. Their huge tail with a beautiful pattern involuntarily catches the eye. But only males can boast of such beauty – with its help they try to attract the attention of females.
Origin of the species and description
Birds evolved from ancient reptiles – archosaurs, their immediate ancestors were flightless lizards, such as thecodonts or pseudosuchians. So far, intermediate forms between them and birds have not been found, according to which it would be possible to more accurately establish how evolution proceeded. Gradually, a skeletal and muscular structure was formed that allowed flight, as well as plumage – it is believed that it was originally required for thermal insulation. Presumably, the first birds appeared at the end of the Triassic or at the beginning of the Jurassic, although no fossils of this age have been found.
The oldest fossil birds found are 150 million years old, and they are Archeopteryx. Between them and the reptiles, supposedly their ancestors, there are large differences in structure – which is why scientists believe that there are intermediate forms that have not yet been found. Most of the modern orders of birds appeared much later – about 40-65 million years ago. Among them is the order of galliformes, which includes the pheasant family, to which peacocks belong. Speciation was especially active at that time due to the evolution of angiosperms, followed by the evolution of birds.
Peacocks were described in 1758 by K. Linnaeus, received the name Pavo. He also identified two species: Pavo cristatus and Pavo muticus (1766). Much later, in 1936, a third species, Afropavo congensis, was scientifically described by James Chapin. At first, it was not considered a species, but later its differences from the other two were discovered. But for a long time, the black-shouldered peacock was considered an independent species, but Darwin proved that this is nothing more than a mutation that arose during the domestication of the peacock.
Peacocks used to be taken into a subfamily, however, it was subsequently established that their convergence with other birds included in the subfamily, like tragopans or monals, is unreasonable. As a result, they turned into a genus that is part of the Pheasant family and subfamily.
Appearance and features
The length of the peacock is 100- 120 centimeters, and a tail is added to this – moreover, it itself reaches 50 cm, and a magnificent uppertail – 110-160 cm. With such dimensions, it weighs quite a bit – about 4-4.5 kilograms, that is, a little more than an ordinary domestic chicken.
The front of the body and head are blue, the back is green, and the lower body is black. Males are larger and brighter, their head is decorated with a bunch of feathers – a kind of “crown”. Females are smaller, do not have a rump, and their body itself is paler. If the male is easy to recognize immediately by the uppertail, then the female does not stand out.
The green peacock, as the name implies, is distinguished by the predominance of a green hue. Its plumage also stands out with a metallic sheen, and its body is noticeably larger – about a third, its legs are also longer. At the same time, his uppertail is the same as that of an ordinary peacock.
Only males have a beautiful uppertail, they need it for mating dances. After the mating season ends, molting sets in, and it becomes difficult to distinguish males from females – except for size.
An interesting fact: Female peacocks are bad at hatching eggs, because in captivity they are usually placed under other birds – chickens or turkeys, or hatched in incubators. But when the chicks appear, the mother takes care of them vigilantly: she constantly leads with her and teaches, and in cold weather she warms under her plumage.
Where does the peacock live?
The range of common peacocks (they are also Indian) includes a significant part of Hindustan and adjacent territories.
They live on lands belonging to the following states:
- Sri Lanka.
In addition, there is also a population of this species separated from the main range in Iran, perhaps the ancestors of these peacocks were brought by people in ancient times and became wild – or earlier their range was wider and included these areas, and over time they turned out to be cut off.
They settle in the jungle and forests, on river banks, forest edges, near villages near cultivated lands. They prefer flat or hilly terrain – they are not found higher than 2,000 meters above sea level. They do not like large open spaces – they need shrubs or trees for the night.
The range of green peacocks is located close to the habitats of ordinary ones, but they do not intersect.
Green peacocks inhabit:
- eastern part of India outside Hindustan;
- Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram;
- eastern part of Bangladesh;
- Indonesian island of Java.
Although when listed it seems that they occupy vast territories, in reality this is not so: unlike the common peacock, which rather densely inhabits the lands within its range, green ones are rare in the listed countries, in separate foci. The African peacock, also known as the Congolese, inhabits the Congo River basin – the forests growing in these territories are ideal for it.
This is where the areas of natural settlement of peacocks are exhausted, but in many areas that are climatically suitable for their habitat, they were introduced by man, successfully took root and became wild. In some places there are now quite large populations – almost all of these peacocks are Indian.
They are found in Mexico and some southern US states, as well as in the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand and some other islands in Oceania. All such peacocks, before becoming wild, were domesticated, and therefore stand out for their greater mass and short legs.
Now you know where the peacock lives. Let’s see what they eat.
What does a peacock eat?
Mostly the diet of this bird consists of plant foods and includes shoots, fruits and grains. Some peacocks live near cultivated fields and feed on them – sometimes residents drive them away and consider them pests, but more often they are fine with this – peacocks do not cause much damage to plantings, while their neighborhood also has a positive role.
Namely – in addition to plants, they also feed on small living creatures: they effectively fight rodents, dangerous snakes, slugs. As a result, the benefits of peacocks living near plantings can significantly outweigh the harm, and therefore they are not touched.
It is believed that peacocks were domesticated in many respects not even because of their appearance, but precisely because they exterminate pests, they are especially good at fighting poisonous snakes – these birds are not at all afraid of their poison and easily catch cobras and others. snakes.
They often feed near the shore of a reservoir or in shallow water: they catch frogs, lizards, and various insects. When kept in captivity, peacocks can be given grain mixtures, greens, potatoes, and vegetables. To make the plumage brighter, add squid to the diet.
An interesting fact: In nature, Indian and green peacocks do not interbreed, since their ranges do not intersect, but in captivity it is sometimes possible to obtain hybrids called spaulding – it is given in honor of Kate Spaulding, who first managed to breed such a hybrid. They do not give offspring.
Character and lifestyle features
Most of the time they are looking for food, making their way through the bushes and thickets of trees, tearing up the ground – in this way they resemble ordinary chickens. Peacocks are always on the alert, listen carefully, and if they feel danger, they either run away or try to hide among the plants. At the same time, magnificent plumage does not interfere with them, and on the contrary, among the bright tropical flora, also iridescent with multicolor, it allows you to go unnoticed.
At noon, when the heat sets in, they usually stop looking for food and rest for several hours. To do this, they find a place for themselves in the shade: in the trees, in the bushes, sometimes they bathe. On trees, peacocks feel more secure, and they also spend the night on them.
They have small wings, and can even fly, but very badly – they take off from the ground after a long run, not very high, and fly only up to 5-7 meters, after which they can no longer take to the air, because they spend too much energy. Therefore, a peacock trying to take off can be seen very rarely – and yet it happens.
The voice of peacocks is loud and unpleasant – peacock cries resemble cat cries. Fortunately, they do not cry often, usually either to warn of the danger of their relatives, or before the rain.
Interesting fact: When a peacock performs a courtship dance, it is silent, which may seem surprising – and the clue is this: in fact, they are not silent, but speak to each other using infrasound, so that the human ear cannot pick up this communication.
Social structure and reproduction
Peacocks are polygamous, with three to seven females per male. The breeding season begins with the rainy season and ends with its end. If there are many males nearby, they disperse away from each other and each takes its own site, where there must be several convenient places to demonstrate plumage.
They nurse and show off in front of the females, and they appreciate the beauty of their feathers – they do not always find the gentleman irresistible, sometimes they go further to appreciate the other. When the choice is made, the female crouches, showing this – and mating takes place, after which she looks for a place for laying, and the male continues to invite other females.
The nests of the female are arranged in different places: on trees, stumps, in crevices . The main thing is that they are covered and protected, not located in open areas. After the female has laid her eggs, she constantly incubates them, being distracted only to feed – and she spends much less time on this than usual, and tries to return as soon as possible.
It is necessary to incubate the eggs for four weeks, after which the chickens finally hatch from them. While they are growing, their parents take care of them, hide them and protect them from predators – at first they even bring them food, then they begin to take them out for feeding. If the chicks are in danger, they hide under the mother’s tail. Tufts grow in them by the end of the first month of life, and at two months they can already rise into the air. They grow to the size of an adult bird by the end of the first year, a little later they finally leave the family nest.
Puberty occurs by two to three years. Up to a year and a half, males look almost the same as females, and only after this milestone do they begin to grow a magnificent tail. This process ends completely by 3 years. The African species is monogamous, that is, there is one female per male. While incubating, the male stays nearby and provides protection to the nest.
Natural enemies of peacocks
Among them are large cats and birds of prey. The most terrible for peacocks are leopards and tigers – they often hunt them, and peacocks cannot oppose them. After all, both the first and second are much faster and more agile, and the only chance to escape is to climb a tree in time.
This is exactly what peacocks are trying to do, they barely notice a tiger or leopard nearby, or hear some suspicious noise. These birds are anxious, and they can alarm even if in reality there is no threat, and other animals make noise. Peacocks run away with loud unpleasant cries to notify the whole neighborhood.
But even on a tree, peacocks cannot be saved, because cats climb them well, so the peacock can only hope that the predator will chase after his relative that did not climb so high. That individual, which was not lucky enough to get caught, tries to fight back, pounding on the enemy with its wings, but there is little harm from this for strong cats.
Although adult peacocks can repulse the attacks of mongooses, reed cats or other birds, because they often hunt for young animals, it is easier to catch them and they have less strength to fight back. There are even more people who want to eat absolutely chicks or eggs – even relatively small predators are capable of this, and as soon as the mother hen is distracted, her nest can be destroyed.
Population and species status
There are a lot of Indian peacocks in nature, they are among the species whose existence is not threatened by anything. In India, they are among the most revered birds, and few people hunt them, moreover, they are also protected by law. As a result, their total number is from 100 to 200 thousand.
African peacocks have the status of vulnerable, their exact population has not been established. Historically, it has never been particularly high, and so far there is no clear tendency for it to fall – they live in a sparsely populated area and do not come into contact with humans so often.
There is also no active fishing – in the Congo River basin there are much more attractive animals for poachers. Nevertheless, in order for the species to be definitely not threatened, measures are still needed to protect it, so far practically not taken.
The most difficult situation is with the green peacock – it is placed in the Red Book among endangered species. In total, about 20,000 individuals live in the world, while their range and total number have been rapidly declining in the last 70-80 years. This happens for two reasons: the active development and settlement of territories occupied by peacocks, and their direct extermination.
In China and the countries of the Indochina Peninsula, peacocks are far from being treated with such reverence as in India – hunting for peacocks is much more active. of them, and in the markets you can meet their chicks and eggs, plumage is sold. Chinese farmers fight them with poisons.
Although the Indian peacock is not in the Red Book, it is still under protection in India: hunting for it is punishable by law. Poachers still do it, but in relatively small volumes, so that the population remains stable. It is more difficult with the African and especially the green peacock – these species are much rarer and have international conservation status, in the states in which they live, appropriate measures are not always taken.
And if the population of the African species still does not cause so much anxiety, then green is on the verge of extinction. To save the species, in some states, in particular, in Thailand, China, Malaysia, reserves are created where the territories where these birds live are left untouched and they themselves are protected.
There are programs to educate the local population in Laos and China, designed to change attitudes towards peacocks and stop their destruction as pests. An increasing number of green peacocks are bred in captivity, sometimes introduced into wildlife, as a result of which they now live in North America, Japan, Oceania.
Interesting fact: There used to be an active fishing because of peacock feathers – in the Middle Ages, girls and knights adorned themselves with them at tournaments, and at feasts peacocks were served fried right in feathers. Their meat does not stand out in taste, therefore the main reason is precisely in showiness – it was customary to take oaths over a roasted peacock.
The peacock is often kept in captivity and takes root well and even breeds in it . But still, domesticated birds are no longer wild, and in nature there are less and less of them. Of the three species of these spectacular birds, two are very rare and need human protection to survive – otherwise the Earth could lose another important part of its biodiversity.