1. They’re Actually Called Peafowl
It’s a common mistake, but the bright, colourful peacocks are actually only the male of the species! The species as a whole is called peafowl, and lady peafowl are called peahens. A group of peafowl is called an ostentation, a party a muster or a pride – take your pick! A baby peafowl is a chick or a peachick – aww!
2. Only The Males Are Colourful
So if peacocks are just the males, what are peahens like? Well, they’re a lot less flashy, and tend to come in darker colours like grey, black and brown. This is because they don’t need to attract a mate, they get to choose! So the male peafowl are the show-offs in bright colours, and the peahen gets to pick which one she likes most! They do have a little bit of colour around their necks though, and both male and female peafowl have a little feathery crest on top of their heads.
3. Some People Think Their Feathers Are Unlucky
Peacock feathers have been used for thousands of years for decoration, fashion and ritual, but some people consider them unlucky! In Arab culture, the peacock is seen as a bird of ill omen, whilst in Roman culture they represents death and funerals, but also resurrection. Some cultures also predicted that the peacock cry could predict death, bad weather or other misfortune. Actors (a very superstitious bunch) believe it’s unlucky to have peacock feathers in theatres, whilst they have also become a symbol of vanity. Poor peacocks!
4. They Are Part of The Same Family As Chickens
Yes, peacocks are chickens much flashier, more impressive cousins! They are all part of the Phasianidae family, which also includes turkeys, pheasants, and generally any bird with the word ‘fowl’ in it’s name. You might even notice that some breeds of chicken of chicken have similarly fancy and shiny feathers – it makes sense! This family of birds generally like to live on the ground, and only fly when absolutely necessary.
5. Their Feathers Have Several Purposes
They aren’t just there to look pretty – although that is one of their main aims. There feathers have several different purposes, most of them to do with mating. When trying to attract a female, a peacock wants to look as impressive as possible, and his huge, feathery tail will help with that. It’s also useful when confronting other peacocks who might be after your girlfriend to look as big and as threatening as possible. They also use them to warn off predators -the eye like shapes can make the peacock seem like a much bigger, scarier animal.
6. They Are From India
Or at least, the peacock you’re probably thinking of does. This is the Indian peafowl, or blue peafowl, and they are the most popular type of peafowl – it’s also the national bird of India! But there are two other types of peafowl – the Congo peafowl, which is a bit darker in colour and more like a turkey, and the green peafowl, which looks more like our Indian friend, but is found more in Southeast Asia and is a bit more…well, green. You can even get white peafowl, although this is due to a genetic mutation.
7. They Symbolise Wealth
For thousands of years, peacocks have symbolised wealth. It’s not difficult to see why – their feathers look like beautiful, expensive jewels, and their displays are really impressive. Kings, Emperors and other royals have kept peacocks and used them in artwork to show off their own importance. They’re also sometimes called ‘the king of the birds’ and are also associated with gods and goddess. In short, the peacock is fancier than you’ll ever be.
8. They Make Some Weird Noises
You might have heard a peafowl calling and not realized it! They don’t sound much like their chicken counterparts, there’s no clucking here. Instead they make a sort of wailing cry, a bit like a bird of prey, and it’s been described as a ‘scream’. It sounds a little bit spooky if you don’t know what it is! Peacocks cry to communicate with each other about food, danger and mating.
9. They CAN Fly
They might look like they’d be pretty ungainly in the air, but peacocks CAN fly! They can’t fly very far or very high, but they have been known to fly about a mile (Which is further than you can fly, admit it!). They usually only do this when they feel threatened by a predator, so most of the time they’re much happier on the ground.
10. In Medieval Times They Were Eaten As A Delicacy
Yes, if you were a wealthy Medieval person, like a king or lord, you could look forward to tucking into a nice, juicy peacock. Eating something like peacock would have symbolised you’re wealth and status, although we’re not sure they actually look all that delicious to eat. A peacock might also have been used to create a cockatrice, a fantastical half bird half pig creature (or whatever animals you can get a hold of), sewn together by your cook for an extra impressive dining display.
11. They Can Live Up To 50 Years
When in captivity, peafowl have been known to live a very long time, up to 50 years, although in the wild it’s much shorter, only about 25 years maximum. Still, that’s a long time to be around! In the wild they are more susceptible to threats like predators, habitat descruction, food shortages and other dangers they don’t face in captivity.
12. They Have Been Domesticated For Thousands of Years
Peafowl have been kept as pets and for display for thousands of years all over the world, especially in Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, where they were brought by traders in exchange for other goods. They’ve also been kept by European royalty too, and the Ancient Greeks and Romans were also keen on Peafowl, both for pets and meat.
13. They Are Omnivores
Like other members of their extended family, peafowl tend to eat whatever they come across, mostly grains, berries, plants and insects, though they will also chow down on lizards if they find them! In fact, if they’re in the mood, they’ve been known to kill and eat snakes! Would you want to face a hungry peacock?
14. They’re Feathers Regrow Every Year
If you’re wondering how male peafowl maintain those amazing feather displays, it’s because they shed and regrow their feathers every year, giving them fresh new ones, a bit like when your hair comes out when you brush it, or clipping your nails (but cooler). That’s why you don’t need to hurt a peacock to collect it’s feathers – if you’re lucky, you’ll find them all over the ground! Be on the look out!
15. They Are Covered In Crystals
Yup, move over Elton John, these birds are truly the show-offs of the nature world, and there’s a reason why they look so fabulous. There feathers are covered in microscopic crystal like structures which help to make the iridescent colours off their feathers shine! No wonder they look so amazing, they’re literally bejewelled!