Royal Indian Peafowl
This time, lets meet the royals, the national bird of India. Some of you would be familiar with this bird but what I am writing about is truly wild.
Not only does the handsome prince wear glossy royal blue, he comes wearing his own unique crown. They even wear regal shimmery green embellishment. The train of long feathers (can be almost 2m long) further enhances its regal look. Technically, these are not the exact tail feathers but we will still use the term for convenience.
The princess is quite unlike her counterpart in appearance but the crown is very much in place.
The boys are careful not to drag their long beautiful tails along the ground as it could spoil their beauty. So, when they are not foraging, they spend their time sitting on low tree branches or a high perch with tails hanging down. It is easier for the girls as their tails are short.
These birds are associated with rainy season as it is the time to find their partners.
The royal dance:
They have excellent control over their long ‘tail’ feathers. While performing, can fan these, take them up or down in slow motion in whatever angle that they may wish. Sometimes they give the feathers a shake, which gives a ‘shimmy’ effect. They circle around giving a good 360-degree view to anyone who may be interested. At the same time, they call out loud for attention and also move their wings and under-wing feathers somewhat like the wheels of an old steam engine. Whew! So many things to co-ordinate.
I think, it is like a human controlling not only all the keys of a piano simultaneously, but also the entire orchestra. Each performance can last several minutes depending on the attention span of the female and, also, other factors that may disturb him. It all seems easy but managing so many long feathers must be tough.
Imagine holding a long and heavy umbrella in windy conditions and try opening it and moving it slowly up and down repeatedly! Now you know what I mean.
It is really an experience to watch them dance.
As to how they do it…they practice a lot. I have seen them practice even when they are young and their tails are not fully grown.
Major threat is rapid urbanization that is eating into their habitat at an alarming pace. I have seen their world shrink. The poor royals banished from their own kingdom.
Also, demand for their beautiful feathers from fashion industry, dancers, beauty pageants, ornamental and even semi-religious reasons is another threat.
In one particular international beauty contest, I counted more than 20 contestants wearing peacock feathers in a particular round.
Plucking the feathers out of a bird in his prime means the poor bird is out of contention – no mate for a whole year without any fault of his. And to think it took him around five years or so to make the tail grow that long. Frustrating. Don’t you think?