Peafowl

By Kate dowsley

A bit about the Peafowl

Peafowl are species of bird commonly called  peacocks, but this only refers to the male, with the female being peahens and the babies being peahen. Peafowl Are a member of the peasant family and there are three different species of peafowl in the world; the Indian peafowl being the most common with it's blue feathers generally lives  in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the green peafowl which is most commonly found in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam and the Congo peafowl found in Congo! Did you know that the male Peafowl - the Peacock - is one of the largest flying birds in the world when taking into account the train (1.4-1.6 metres in length), the total body length (2.3 metres) and the wingspan (1.4-1.6 metres).

The Habitat of a Peafowl

Peafowl generally reside in the Indian Subcontinent, being found in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Cambodia,China, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand Viet Nam and Congo. The average Peafowl prefer open forests, dry semi-desert grasslands, scrubs and deciduous forests. They use their surrounding very well, making their nests in the ground and using the grass and sticks found in their habbitat to line it.

Fertilisation

Fertilisation happens in peafowl internally when the peacock and peahen press their cloacas together and the sperm goes into the females infundibulum where it is stored until an ovum seperates from the cluster and drops into the funnel section to be fertilised in the infundibulum. As peafowl are birds, the male of the species produce lots of sperm (counted in the millions) but the female only produce a handful of fully matured egg cells. It may be very wasteful distributing that many sperm cells, but peacocks (like humans) can produce sperm when it is needed, so peafowl are not wasteful regarding their gametes.

Embryo development

As the peafowl egg is an amniote egg  (An egg with a hard shell that has compartmentalized sacs for food and waste-allowing vertebrates to develop on land) it develops externally (being oviparity).  While in the gestation period of around 28 days, eggs (approximately 6-12 eggs a year for each peahen) are kept in a nest scratched into the ground by the the peahen and lined with sticks and grass. Laying an amniote egg means that the hen can lay her eggs on land without worry of the eggs dehydrating and being an amniote egg means that the peachick has all of the nutrients it needs to develop, allowing gasses to pass through and preventing the nutrients contained in the egg from escaping.

Parental care of peachicks

As for the care of the peachicks, the male peacock is not involved in raising the chicks, but the female peahen cares for her chicks very much. As a newly hatched chick, a peachick is very vulnerable and require the constant care of their mother, crowding around their mother under her wings before being able to fly confidently between trees. Peafowl are infact K-selection animals -producing less offspring with a lower mortality rate and lots of care - even though for every 6 eggs that hatch, only two will survive to join the rest of the flock. There is comparatively more parental care among peafowl because without it almost none of the peachicks would survive even having the ability to walk and find food from birth because they are so vulnerable. Even with lots of parental care the peafowl do not have a particularly high offspring mortality rate and without the current state of parental care provided the species would probably decrese in population within a few generations.    

Here we see the peahen watching over peachicks while they learn the ways of the peafowl.

Fun facts on Peafowl

Did you know that peacocks with the most extravagant feathers and eyespots produce the strongest, healthiest offspring being a prime example of sexual selection.

As peacocks are birds typically more than one sperm bonds and fuses with the egg.

A group of peafowl is called an ostentation or a pride.

The Indian peafowl is the national bird of India and is protected there.

Peacocks, like most male birds, do not have a penis.

Peahens are sexually mature by the age of two, but peacocks are not sexually maturer until the age of three at the very earliest.

Peacocks start to grow their beautiful feathers at around the age of two and they continue to develop in size and beauty up until they have lived for around 5-6 years.

Peafowl have been seen to "mutate" so that their feathers are white instead of blue and green.

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