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Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus

Black shouldered peafowl
Peacock


The many peacocks and occasional peahens which you see around the grounds are free to come and go as they will. We either hatch a few of our own, or, more commonly, release bought-in young birds when these are about six to eight months old. We release them slowly and carefully so they gradually learn their way about and, especially, where the boundary of the Zoopark is.

For ten months of the year, they are quite content, but in April and May there may be some straying as some males try to find additional females or empty territories.

All our peafowl are Indian, or Blue peafowl, although it is many, many generations since their ancestors last clapped eyes on their homelands of India or Sri Lanka.

During the breeding season, individual males have favoured displaying spots, or leks, where they can be found with outstretched trains on most sunny days. The females wander about through these display areas. Modern research has shown that the females are impressed by males with the biggest, showiest trains, possibly because such a bird is likely to be exceptionally strong and healthy, carrying (in the wild, anyway) few parasites. The genes of such a male would thus get the off-spring of the hen in question off to a good start.

Although it might seem difficult to believe, all of our peafowl can fly very well, if heavily. They spend the days walking about, but at night, or if chased, they fly up into the trees. They roost outside all the year round no matter what the weather, on sturdy comfortable branches 20 to 30 metres above the ground and, thus, well out of harm's way. In early summer, the hens lay their eggs amongst the long grass and, during the 28 day incubation period are, sadly, frequently predated by the ever-present local wild fox population.

The feathers that form the train begin to drop out about late June. The train is complete again by about Christmas, so the months after this are the time to look for those magnificent displays, which include a ritual strutting, and shaking of the train.


A brace of Peafowl

© Andy Smyth, Glasgow

 


Although Glasgow Zoopark maintains a flock of free-living Peafowl, we have always had trouble with the hens. All of these hardy birds sleep outside whatever the weather, twenty or so metres up, exposed wind-swept deciduous trees. In April, the hens sleep on their nests hidden amongst the long, rank grass in quiet parts of the Zoopark. Our wild red foxes, having learned this, systematically quarter these areas searching for them, and the end is swift. Fortunately, in the excitement, the eggs are frequently overlooked. If we're lucky we may be able to save some by placing them under broody hens. We have reared quite a number this way.

The bad thing is that the peafowl are partial to newly hatched bantam and poultry chicks, and if not stopped, will gobble them down whole.