The peacock belongs to the subfamily Pavoninae of the pheasant family Phasianidae, and India appears to be its natural habitat, but it is abundantly domesticated in Europe. The male is the bird of "fine feathers," the female, more sombre, presenting a striking contrast to the brilliant appearance of her mate. In a tame state these birds begin to breed at the end of March or beginning of April. The eggs are laid in a gradual manner, one egg being deposited every two days, and the entire number reaching ten or twelve. The eggs are large, resembling goose eggs in size, white with darker spots. Incubation lasts from twenty-five to thirty days. The young birds are feathered alike for the first two years, and in the third year the tail coverts of the male begin to be developed and to assume their lustrous appearance, when also the males begin to parade their attractions before the eyes of their mates. The third year is the first in which the young peahen produces eggs.

The Peacock.

Fig. 146. - The Peacock.

Alexander the Great first brought the peacock into Europe, and they were first seen in Rome at the end of the republic. Hor-tensius, according to Pliny, was the first who made a table delicacy of the peacock, this worthy orator presenting the dish at a feast given to the College of Augurs. Vitellius and Heliogabalus introduced dishes at their feasts composed of the brains and tongues of peacocks, and in the Middle Ages in Europe peacocks were still deemed meet dishes for the tables of the great. In modern times the flesh of peacocks is accounted coarse and tough.

The food consists of grain of various kinds, but in certain cases the peacock will feed on a very miscellaneous diet. In large pleasure grounds a few pea-fowls appear to great advantage, there being little that requires cultivation, and when duly supplied with grain or other food. But in vegetable grounds they are very destructive, clearing out whole rows of recently sown peas, etc., with great gusto, and thief-like are extremely crafty in selecting times for committing their depredations. They destroy various ground pests.