Peacock, or Peafowl, a large bird of the pheasant family. Properly, the peacock is the male, penhen the female. There are three species, two of them native to Asia, and the third to Africa. Asian peacocks have long been domesticated, and can be found in gardens and zoos in many parts of the world. The males are noted for their display of brilliant plumage.

The male peacockThe male peacock displays his tail feathers to attract attention during courtship.

The Indian, or common, peacock is native to India and Sri Lanka. It has a crest of blue-green feathers, and a long train composed of the upper tail coverts. Its neck, breast, and train are iridescent blue and green. The back and tail are chestnut in color; the wings are white and brown. The hen is duller in color, and has no train. A white variety of the Indian peacock has been developed. The Javanese peacock is native to Indochina. It is similar to the Indian peacock except that it is predominantly green, and the female is more brightly colored than the Indian peahen.

The male of either species of Asian peacocks may have a body more than two feet (60 cm) long and a train six feet (180 cm) long. To attract attention, during courtship and at other times, the male lifts the train and spreads it out in a fan that arches over the bird's back and touches the ground on either side. The train is supported by the short, stiff tail feathers. The plumage of the train is spotted with eye-shaped markings in gold, green, and purple.

The Congo peacock, of a different genus, was discovered by zoologists in 1937. The male is glossy black with a white crest, and has no train. The female is green and brown.

The male peacock usually has a harem of two to five hens. The female lays three to eight whitish eggs that may be spotted with brown. Nests are built in secluded places on the ground or in low branches of trees. Peacocks feed on a wide variety of animal and vegetable material, including grain, tender shoots and bulbs, frogs, snails, and worms.

Who Has a Big, Showy Fan?

A male peacock uses his large fan as a display to attract a mate. When not used for display, the fan feathers trail behind the bird. In this position, the fan feathers are called a train, like the trailing fabric on a bride’s gown. Female peafowl do not have fans.

The male’s fan is made up of some 200 long feathers. These beautiful feathers can be some 60 inches (about 150 centimeters) in length. They are greenish-blue and feature bold spots that look like eyes. As the peacock displays his fan, he shakes its feathers so that they make a rattling noise. This also helps attract the female’s attention.

The Indian peacock is Pavo cristatus; the Javanese peacock, P. muticus. The Congo peacock is Afropavo congensis. Peacocks belong to the family Phasianidae.