Feathery Facts About Peacocks

1 . Feathery Facts About Peacocks

With its massive tail and iridescent colors, this bird has long fascinated its human observers and were still learning its secrets. For example, astudyrecently published inThe British Journal of AnimalBehavioursays that when a peacock fans its ornamented train for the ladies during mating season, its feathers quiver, emitting a low frequency sound inaudible to human ears. Depending on whether they wantto attract females from far away or up close, they can change the sound by shaking different parts of their feathers. (Theyre not the only animals that create infrasonic sounds. Elephantsproduce themwith their vocal cords, most likely to communicate overlong distances.) Here are a few other interesting facts about theseimpressive birds.

2 . ONLY THE MALES ARE ACTUALLYPEACOCKS

The collective term for these birds is peafowl. The males are peacocks and the females are peahens. The babies are called peachicks.

3 . A FAMILY OF PEAFOWL IS CALLEDA BEVY

A group of the birds is also sometimes called an ostentation, a muster, or even a party.

4 . THEYRE NOT BORN WITH THEIRFANCY TAIL FEATHERS

The male peachicks dont start growing their showytrains until about age three. In fact, its hard to tell the sex of a peachick because theyre nearly identical to their mothers. At around six months, the males will begin to change color [PDF].

5 . THEY DONT HAVE TO BE KILLEDFOR THEIR FEATHERS

Luckily, the peacocks shed their train every yearafter mating season, so the feathers can begatheredand sold without the birds coming to any harm. The average lifespan of a peacock in the wild is about20 years.

6 . THEY CAN FLY DESPITE THEIRMASSIVE TRAINS

A peacocks tail feathers can reach up to six feetlong and make up about 60 percent of its body length. Despite these odd proportions, the bird flies just fine, if notvery far.

7 . THERE ARE ALL WHITE PEAFOWL

Thanks to selective breeding, its common for captivepeafowl to buck the iridescent trend for all white feathers. This is calledleucism,and its due to a genetic mutation that causes loss of pigmentation. These peafowl are often mistaken for being albino, but instead of having red eyes, animals with leucism retain their normal eye color.

8 . PEACOCKS WERE A DELICACY INMEDIEVAL TIMES

The birds were plucked, roasted and then re dressed in their feathers to appear in their original live state on the dinner table. Heres the presentation instructions from one recipe:

wynde the skyn
wit the fethurs and the taile abought
the body, And serue him forthe as he
were a live

The birds may have looked beautiful, but they reportedly tasted terrible. It was tough and coarse, and was criticized by physicians for being difficult to digest and for generating bad humors, writes Melitta Weiss Adamson in her book Food in Medieval Times.

9 . THEY CAN FAKE IT

These birds arent just nice to look at, theyre also clever, according to one recent study.

When peafowl mate with peahens, they give out a loud copulatory call. Canadian researchers Roslyn Dakin and Robert Montgomerie discovered that the birds can fake this call to attract more females. As the BBCs Ella Davies put it, By pretending they are mating when they are not, the birds could convince females they are more sexually active and therefore genetically fitter than their rivals.

In fact, one third of the calls heard by researchers were fake, and the birds that made them scored the most hookups. Sneaky, sneaky.

10 . THEIR FEATHERS ARE COVERED IN TINY CRYSTAL LIKE STRUCTURES

What makes the peacocks feathers so brilliant?Microscopiccrystal like structures that reflect different wavelengths of light depending on how theyre spaced, resulting inbright fluorescent colors. Hummingbirds and shimmering butterflieshave mastered a similar visual effect on their own wings.

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