Peacock, a gallinaceous bird of the pheasant family, and subfamily pavonince, which includes, according to Gray, the genera pavo (Linn.), polyplectron (Temni.), and crossoptilon (Hodgs.), all natives of India and its archipelago. In the genus pavo the bill is moderate, with the base of the culmen elevated, the apical half arched and vaulted, and the sides compressed; wings short and rounded, with the sixth quill the longest; head plumed and crested, and orbital region naked; the tail composed of 18 feathers, long and rounded, but in the males concealed by the greatly lengthened coverts; tarsi long and strong, with large transverse scales in front, and armed with a conical spur; toes moderate, the anterior ones united at the base by a membrane. They are splendid birds, preferring in the wild state wooded districts and low jungles; they are sufficiently hardy to endure the severe cold of the mountains of northern India; they roost on high branches, and make the nest on the ground among thick shrubs; the male does not attain his perfect train until the third year. The wild birds are more brilliant than the domesticated.
They are about the size of a hen turkey; the flight is low and heavy; they are polygamous, and lay from 12 to 20 eggs, about the size of those of a goose, and raise only one brood in a year. Some are more or less variegated, and occasionally one is seen entirely white. The food consists of grain, seeds, fruits, and insects. The common peacock (P. crista-tw, Linn.) is probably the most magnificent of birds; its form is elegant, its movements graceful, and its plumage resplendent with tints of green, golden, bronze, and blue; the long tail coverts, which the male can spread like a fan, are beautiful beyond description, with their metallic and iridescent hues, white shafts, velvet-black centre, and brilliant terminal eye spots; the head is surmounted by a very elegant tuft of feathers. The female is brownish and sombre, and destitute of the train. The voice is harsh and disagreeable; its vanity has been proverbial from early antiquity. The peacock was brought to Palestine by the fleets of Solomon, and to Europe at a very early period; it is now dispersed in a domesticated state all over Europe and the United States. In ancient Rome their costliness made them favorite luxuries for the table, and a dish of peacocks' brains and tongues was regarded as a necessary part of an ostentatious feast; even in the middle ages they formed a standing dish in grand entertainments; the moderns think their flesh dry and tough, and keep them only as ornaments.
In the domesticated state they agree well with turkeys, but not always with other poultry; it is necessary to protect them from the cold of our northern winters; in the wild state they have a propensity to roost on the branches of trees, and should therefore have an opportunity to perch; barley is the most common food given to them, and to this may be added millet and other grains, and leguminous vegetables; the females are apt to neglect their eggs and young, hence the services of a hen turkey are generally required. - In the genus polyplectron the bill is slender, straight, half vaulted at the apex, and curved to the tip, with compressed sides, and covered with plumes at the base; the tail is lengthened, broad, and rounded, without the long coverts of the preceding genus; the tarsi armed in the males with two or three spurs, in the females tuber-culate; toes long and slender, the anterior united at base, and the hind one elevated. About half a dozen species, all showy, are found in mountainous districts of India. The iris peacock (P. bicalcaratum, Temm.) is about as large as a domestic fowl, mottled with ash-colored, white, and brown; wings and tail and their coverts with rows of gilded, bronzed, purple, and reddish spots, with bluish and green reflections.
The Thibet peacock (P. Tibeta-num, Temm.) is rather larger, and differs principally from the last in the blackish lines of the plumage; the tail is reddish, each feather having a double ocellated green spot; it is hardy, and a great favorite in the aviaries of the wealthy Chinese. - In the genus crossopti-lon the bill is shorter than the head, broad at the base, with the lateral margins curved, the upper mandible spreading beyond the lower and overhanging it; tail lengthened and broad, rounded at the end, with the coverts slightly covering the base; tarsi strong, covered in front with divided scales, and armed with a spur; hind toe short and elevated; claws strong and curved; sides of the head covered with a papillose skin; the feathers loose and hair-like. The C. auritum (Hodgs.) is peculiar to the mountains of Thibet, and is very rare; the general color is white, with the primaries brown, the secondaries bluish cinereous, the feet and orbital region red, and the crown bluish black, of rigid feathers in vertical laminas; an ear tuft of long, decomposed white plumes; the tail with bluish, green, and purplish reflections, the lateral feathers with a subterminal oval white spot.
Common Peacock (Pavo cristatus).
Thibet Peacock (Polyplectron Tibetanum).