Peafowl in the Arboretum
Please do not feed the Peafowl. A healthy diet for peafowl is critically important. Peafowl are omnivores with a diet composed mostly of seeds, plants, insects, small reptiles, and mammals. Visitors are not allowed to feed the peafowl because it disrupts their natural diet. Furthermore, feeding by people causes them to become aggressive and bite or climb on humans causing injury. Small children are particularly vulnerable.
Birds and animals visit the Arboretum because of its abundant natural food supply. The Arboretum provides peafowl a similar environment to their native habitat in India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan where peafowl are found in open forests and wooded areas.
Take a minute to watch peafowl scratching for food and interact with each other as they would in their native habitats.
The Arboretum staff appreciates your cooperation.
The species of peafowl here at the Arboretum are Indian Peafowl which are members of the pheasant family. The species is named Pavo cristatus with cristatus referring to the peafowls’ crest. The male birds are called peacocks, the female birds are peahens, and the offspring are peachicks. Although the term “peacock” is often used when referring to the species as a whole, the collective term for both genders is peafowl. Peafowl have an average lifespan of twenty years.
Peacocks have brightly colored feathers of iridescent blues, greens, browns, and gold. The peacock’s true tail is covered by long feathers called a train. The train contains ocelli which are the eye shaped markings. The train can grow up to 6 or 7 feet. The train is used in mating rituals to help attract a peahen. The peahen is a mottled brown color with a green neck. This provides camouflage from predators while nesting. Both male and female peafowl have a crest on top of their head.
History of the Arboretum’s Peafowl
Peafowl have been admired for thousands of years, particularly the India blue species that make their home at the Arboretum and the surrounding area.
Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin, owner of the Santa Anita Ranchero, imported several pairs from India in 1879. They were a fitting addition to the Santa Anita Ranch as it was fashionable for the well-to-do to put unique animals on their property. A small portion of the old Ranchero is now the Arboretum where the Blue Indian Peafowl, also called blue peafowl, have thrived in this Southern California environment and are a naturalized species here. There are well over two hundred peafowl at the Arboretum.
Today, visitors to the Arboretum delight in watching the peafowl as they strut and groom ostentatiously preserving the image of the 14th century metaphor “proud as a peacock”.
Mating and Raising a Peafowl Family
These magnificent birds are quite a sight to see. This is especially true during their mating season. Through spring into early summer, peacocks will form what is known as a lek. A lek is a group of males, each with their own small territory, taking part in mating rituals such as displaying their train, dancing, and calling out in order to attract the females. The peacock will use its stiff tail feathers to lift its long train unfolding it into a fan that is about 6 or 7 feet wide. By spreading its train, the peacock displays its brightly colored feathers in hopes of attracting a mate. He will also make his feathers vibrate performing a little dance to further entice a peahen. Peahens will tend to pick peacocks with longer trains with more elaborate ocelli, or eye spots, and more vivid patterning. At the end of their mating season, the peacocks’ feathers will begin to molt, only to be replaced by a new set of beautiful feathers 7 months later.
The peahen has the challenging task of raising the peachicks by herself. Each peahen generally lays between three to eight eggs in a nest she’s made called a clutch. The incubation period is about 28 to 30 days. The chicks are able to walk and forage with the guidance of the mother right away. Around two months of age, both male and female peachicks will have the same coloring as the peahen. It isn’t until two years of age that the male will have his mature coloring and grow the long train feathers.
The Arboretum is a perfect place to observe the peafowl in a natural setting. Peacocks are birds that love to show off their feathers. Their intricate vibrant colors make them wonderful subjects for photographing.
Although peahens are not as colorful as the peacocks, they are highly active. You may see peahens building a clutch to lay their eggs in or raising their peachicks. Peachicks grow up fast so if you are lucky enough to spot them in the garden, you can observe them mimicking their mother, learning how to be grown-up peafowl.
All peafowl have a daily routine of feeding and exercise. Follow them on their daily walk and you will observe them using their feet to dig for insects, cleaning their feathers, or preening, and interacting with each other. In the evening the peafowl fly up into the tall tree branches to be safe from predators. Peafowl are most active before noon and in the evening, so get those cameras ready and enjoy one of the larger birds on earth.
After learning about peafowl , you may look at these birds a little differently. Take a minute and observe not only how peafowl interact with each other, but with their environment as well.
Join us on Project Noah and help us create a wildlife community. You can help by downloading the free Project Noah app and joining the Peafowl Project mission to help us track and observe the peafowl here at the Arboretum.