Wilson Chong a.k.a. starrynight was in India recently and returned with an impressive image of a male Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) in flight (above). The male bird, also known as the Indian Peacock, has always been admired for his beauty.
The peacock has a wingspan of 80-130 cm. The brownish primary and the much darker secondary flight feathers are well displayed in flight, as are the whitish coverts. The tail is 40-45 cm long, eclipsed by the much longer train made up of abnormally lengthened upper tail coverts. In flight the train trails behind the bird.
The beauty of the long train is fully displayed only when the peacock is on the ground and in the presence of a female or females. The train is then lifted and fanned out to display the more than a hundred impressive eye-like ocelli, each with its bright blue iris (below). At the same time the peacock adds sound effects to his visual display by stamping his feet on the ground and rustling his wings feathers.
The female is distinctly smaller, with shorter tail and no train. She generally prefers to mate with males with the most elaborate train. This has been shown experimentally by Petrie & Halliday (1994) who manipulated the trains of the male by removing a number of eye-spots between mating seasons. Peacocks with eye-spots removed showed a significant decline in mating success between seasons compared with a control group.
The Indian Peafowl is common in India, seen in deciduous forests as well as around villages. They are protected throughout the country, the bird being sacred to Hindus and Buddhists alike. To the Hindus the peacock is the vehicle upon which the god Kartikeya, son of Lord Shiva and Parvati, and brother of the elephant god, Ganesh, moves around.
Top image by Wilson Chong, bottom image by YC Wee.
Petrie, M. & T. Halliday, 1994. Experimental and natural changes in the peacock’s (Pavo cristatus) train can affect mating success. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 35:213-217.
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