Indian peafowl in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka; green peafowl in Southeast Asia


Open forests

What are peafowl?

Peacocks and peahens—these are the birds known as peafowl, members of the pheasant family. Although most people call the species peacocks, the word really only refers to the male bird. Just like among chickens, where the male is called a rooster or cock and the female is called a hen, male peafowl are peacocks, female peafowl are peahens, and babies are peachicks! There are two peafowl species: Indian or blue peafowl and green peafowl. Most people are familiar with the Indian peafowl, since that is the kind found in many zoos and parks.

Proud as a peacock

The peacock has some of the brightest feathers and one of the most impressive courting displays of any bird in the world. The Indian peacock has very flashy plumage, with a bright blue head and neck, but the Indian peahen is a drab, mottled brown in comparison. The male needs his bright feathers to attract a mate, and the female needs to be able to blend in with the bushes so that predators cannot see her while she is incubating her eggs.

Unlike the Indian peafowl, the male and female green peafowl have similar coloration, although the peahen's colors are not as vibrant as the peacock's, and the male has a much longer tail. Green peafowl have green, rather than blue, feathers on the head and neck. Both Indian and green peafowl have bare patches of skin around their eyes and a funny crest on the top of their head made of feathers arranged in a fan shape. The Indian peafowl’s crest looks like little dots on the end of sticks!

A group of peafowl is called an ostentation, or a pride—very appropriate for this showy bird.
The Indian peafowl is the national bird of India and is protected in that country. To Hindus, the peafowl is a sacred bird; the spots on the peacock’s train symbolize the eyes of the gods.
There are several genetic color mutations of Indian peafowl, including white.
Peacocks are mentioned in the Bible as one of the most precious items brought from Asia by King Solomon's ships.
Peacocks are often used in artwork representing Paradise or Nirvana.
The Indian peacock’s long train of feathers makes it one of the largest of the flying birds.

Indian peafowl are probably found in every city zoo in America! The San Diego Zoo has had Indian peafowl roaming freely on Zoo grounds since the 1930s, and the spectacular peacocks showing off to any peahen in the area continue to be photographed by more Zoo guests than any of our other animals!

Green peafowl populations have been declining rapidly as the birds are hunted for their meat and the male’s spectacular feathers. Peafowl eggs and chicks are collected, and many of the wild adult birds are caught and sold as pets. Loss of habitat doesn’t help them, either, and farmers in China and Thailand who consider the birds pests poison the peafowl that come on their land.

Now protected by law in China, public awareness campaigns are underway to help these endangered, beautiful birds.

You can help us bring other bird species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.