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The male Indian Peafowl, commonly known as the peacock, is one of the most recognizable birds in the world. These large, brightly colored birds have a distinctive crest and an unmistakable ornamental train. The train accounts for more than 60% of their total body length. Combined with a large wingspan, this train makes the male peafowl one of the largest flying birds in the world. The train is formed by 100-150 highly specialized uppertail-coverts. Each of these feathers sports an ornamental ocellus, or eye-spot, and has long disintegrated barbs, giving the feathers a loose, fluffy appearance. When displaying to a female, the peacock erects this train into a spectacular fan, displaying the ocelli to their best advantage.
The more subtly colored female Peafowl is mostly brown above with a white belly. Her ornamentation is limited to a prominent crest and green neck feathers.
The Indian Peafowl occurs from eastern Pakistan through India, south from the Himalayas to Sri Lanka. Though once common in Bangladesh, it may now be extinct in that country. Its highly ornamental appearance motivated early seafarers to transplant the peafowl to their homelands in other parts of the western world. Phoenician traders in the time of King Solomon (1000 B.C.) introduced the birds to present-day Syria and the Egyptian Pharaohs. Alexander the Great imported more of the birds into his Mediterranean domains and severely penalized anyone caught harming them. Domesticated peafowl remained a popular status symbol through Roman times and the Middle Ages, ensuring their establishment and survival throughout Europe. In its native India, the peafowl is a creature of the open forests and riparian undergrowth. In southern India, it also prefers stream-side forests but may also be found in orchards and other cultivated areas.
Indian Peafowl do most of their foraging in the early morning and shortly before sunset. They retreat to the shade and security of the forest for the hottest portion of the day. Foods include grains, insects, small reptiles, small mammals, berries, drupes, wild figs, and some cultivated crops.
This gorgeous specimen was captured in Springfield, Missouri.
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February 5th, 2013
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