The Indian peafowl or blue peafowl (Pavo cristatus), a large and brightly coloured bird, is a species of peafowl native to South Asia, but introduced in many other parts of the world like the United States, Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, Brazil,Uruguay, Argentina, South Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea and Australia. The species was first named and described by Linnaeus in 1758, and the name Pavo cristatus is still in use now.
The male peacock is predominantly blue with a fan-like crest of spatula-tipped wire-like feathers and is best known for the long train made up of elongated upper-tail covert feathers which bear colourful eyespots. These stiff feathers are raised into a fan and quivered in a display during courtship. Females lack the train, and have a greenish lower neck and duller brown plumage. The Indian peafowl lives mainly on the ground in open forest or on land under cultivation where they forage for berries, grains but also prey on snakes, lizards, and small rodents. Their loud calls make them easy to detect, and in forest areas often indicate the presence of a predator such as a tiger. They forage on the ground in small groups and usually try to escape on foot through undergrowth and avoid flying, though they fly into tall trees to roost.
The function of the peacock's elaborate train has been debated for over a century. In the 19th century, Charles Darwin found it a puzzle, hard to explain through ordinary natural selection. His later explanation, sexual selection, is widely but not universally accepted. In the 20th century, Amotz Zahavi argued that the train was a handicap, and that males were honestly signalling their fitness in proportion to the splendour of their trains. Despite extensive study, opinions remain divided on the mechanisms involved.
The bird is celebrated in Indian and Greek mythology and is the national bird of India. The Indian peafowl is listed as of Least Concernby the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Indian peafowl is a resident breeder across the Indian subcontinent and is found in the drier lowland areas of Sri Lanka. In South Asia, it is found mainly below an altitude of 1,800 metres (1.1 mi) and in rare cases seen at about 2,000 metres (1.2 mi). It is found in moist and dry-deciduous forests, but can adapt to live in cultivated regions and around human habitations and is usually found where water is available. In many parts of northern India, they are protected by religious practices and will forage around villages and towns for scraps. Some have suggested that the peacock was introduced into Europe by Alexander the Great, while others say the bird had reached Athens by 450 BC and may have been introduced even earlier. It has since been introduced in many other parts of the world and has become feral in some areas.
Males may display even in the absence of females. When a male is displaying, females do not appear to show any interest and usually continue their foraging. The nest is a shallow scrape in the ground lined with leaves, sticks and other debris. Nests are sometimes placed on buildings and in earlier times have been recorded using the disused nest platforms of the white-rumped vultures. The clutch consists of 4–8 fawn to buff white eggs which are incubated only by the female. The eggs take about 28 days to hatch. The chicks are nidifugous and follow the mother around after hatching. Downy young may sometimes climb on their mothers' back and the female may carry them in flight to a safe tree branch. An unusual instance of a male incubating a clutch of eggs has been reported.
Feeding:Peafowl are omnivorous and eat seeds, insects, fruits, small mammals and reptiles. They feed on small snakes but keep their distance from larger ones. In the Gir forest of Gujarat, a large percentage of their food is made up of the fallen berries of Zizyphus. Around cultivated areas, peafowl feed on a wide range of crops such as groundnut, tomato, paddy, chilly and even bananas. Around human habitations, they feed on a variety of food scraps and even human excreta. In the countryside, it is particularly partial to crops and garden plants.