Posted by: groundsforsculpture | September 1, 2010

Interesting Facts about Peacocks By Grace Hsu Volunteer Docent

Loving peahen and chicks. Photo by G. Hsu.

For thousands of years, peacocks have enriched the lives of people and the culture of East and West. Today there are about one dozen peacocks at Grounds For Sculpture. They have enchanted visitors of all ages by displaying their beautiful trains or surprised and delighted those who spotted them strolling the park with newly hatched chicks.

White peacock behind Water Garden. Photo by G. Hsu.

Two years ago, one white peacock was added to the group. Being different from those colorful peacocks, it is elusive and not often seen in the park.The term ‘peacock’ is commonly used to refer to both the male (peacock) and the female (peahen); these birds are collectively called peafowl and belong to the pheasant family. The most common breed of peacocks (including those living at GFS) is India Blue, a native and the national bird of India. 

Mix between Blue and White peacock. Photo by G. Hsu.

Male peacocks have beautiful blue-green plumage and a distinctive train or so called ‘tail’ (five to six feet in length), which is actually the covert of the brown elongated real tail. The female has plumage of dull green, brown, and grey and does not have a train. During the mating season between spring to early fall, the male fans its train to display the series of iridescent ‘eyes’ of blue, green, brown and gold, and vibrates the fan rapidly to impress the female. The loud and coarse calling is also part of the courtship ritual. The female usually pretends not to notice it and will mate only when she is ready to lay eggs. In the wild, male peacocks may have a harem of two to five females. In captivity, they are usually content with one. 

The iridescent color of the peacock feather is the result of a phenomenon called interference and reflection of light by thousands of rods in the barbs of the feather. Depending on the angle of the incident light, the complex structure of the rods can cause the color of the reflected light to be either enhanced or cancelled, which produces rich green, blue, gold, brown, violet, and red. 

Peacocks are omnivores. They eat insects, plants, grains, small creatures- almost anything. Social and peace loving, peacocks like to gather in a group, called a “party,” and roost in trees and other high places. In the wild, the average lifespan of peacocks is twenty years. 

Although white peacocks are often mistaken as albinos, their eyes are blue, not pink; they are actually a rare color variety of India Blue and have been around for a very long time. The feathers of white peacocks lack the melanin pigment that absorbs incident light and allows the green, blue, gold and brown to be seen in the colored peacocks. In white peacocks, the rich colors are washed out by the abundant white light. One can still see faint eyes in the train, but show as off-white, not colors. White male and white female peacocks will breed 100% white chicks. When a white is bred to a non-white, the chick is a mix which can be very beautiful. Someday, this may happen at Grounds For Sculpture, and we may all be able to see the beautiful chicks.

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