Birds – Pea Fowls

The final genus to be noticed embraces the splendid Pea Fowls (Pavo), which, in addition to their gorgeous coloration, are distinguished at once by having the upper tail-coverts enormously elongated into a magnificent train which far exceeds the tail in length. Three species are recognized, one of which, however, is of rather doubtful status, being perhaps a domestic variety and from an unknown locality. Of the other species the Common Peacock (P. cristatus) is a native of the Indian peninsula, Ceylon, and Assam, but is now spread as a familiar domestic bird throughout most of the world, having been in domestication in Judea, certainly from the time of Solomon, while in Greece it appears to have become well known after Alexander’s Indian expedition. From Greece it spread to Rome and gradually westward, “and in many different ways has touched human life and fancy. It was the bird of Juno to the Greeks and Romans, and emblematic of a glorified body to the early Christians; its feathers have adorned many a throne and shrine, and the perverted luxury of the later Roman empire made an entrée of the tongues and brains.” Fortunately too well known to need description, a brief account of it in a wild state may be given. It is an extremely shy bird, frequenting mostly the lower elevations and mountain slopes, being partial to broken and jungly ground where good cover exists, near water on the one hand, and cultivation on the other. Where such favorable conditions exist the Peacock is sure to abound, and in many localities it is said to exist literally in myriads, being protected by the more or less, superstitious reverence of the native population, who deplore if not absolutely prohibit its slaughter. It is a rather omnivorous feeder, subsisting on land snails, insects of all kinds, worms, small lizards, and tiny frogs, but preferring apparently grain, juicy grasses, and buds, and being at times very destructive to young plantations and growing crops. The old males are in full plumage from June to December and may often be seen displaying their gorgeousness before a group of admiring females, for the Peacock is polygamous, consorting with four or five hens; at the close of the breeding season the feathers of the train are cast.