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Peacocks in Texas?
Diet: Omnivore – seeds, insects, lizards, snakes and plants
Average life span: 15 years
Size: From bill to tail 40 to 46 inches (100 to 115 cm). A fully grown train can be as long as 78 to 90 inches (195 to 225 cm)
Weight: 8.8–13.2 lbs (4–6 kg)
Habitat: India and Southeast Asian moist and dry-deciduous forests, but can adapt to life in cultivated regions and around human habitations. In the U.S., these birds create colonies and move about as open-range domestic birds.
Male Blue Peacock
How Did They Get Here?
We learn something new every day. Today I learned that Peafowl is the plural for peacocks and peahens. When you say peacock, you are talking about a male bird, not the species in general. They are not migratory, so tend to stay near where ever they escaped captivity or have been recognized by a community as part of the landscape.
Peafowl are not native to Texas. They are imports from India and Southeast Asia, recognized and appreciated for their beauty and fantastic tail feathers. The blue peacock comes from India and Sri Lanka, while the green peacock is native to Java and Myanmar (Burma). A less-known species, inhabits African rain forests referred to as the Congo peacock. So pretty, the birds have been imported to large parks, zoos and wealthy estates around the world as stately yard ornaments. In Texas, some of that may have also been the case.
The Houston peafowl suburban legend has it that these birds were introduced in 1980 through people with a ten-acre property on Whitewing, in West Houston. Today, there are reports of feral peacocks in Memorial neighborhoods, the Spring Creek area and other areas. There are also peafowl in Dallas, Arlington, Grapevine, Galveston and other cities. Conroe has a breeding business in Peafowl. A farm raised bird will cost you from $100 to $200 each.
Most of the time peafowl are decorative and people love them. Oh, there are complaints about peafowl bombs. You know, what drops from the south end after eating. It can be as bad as goose droppings. The real complaining, however, comes during the breeding season (March through August) when they sing (scream like a yowling cat) to attract mates and attack anything they mistake for a competitor.
Peafowl Mating Season – Glamor and Annoyance
During the spring mating season in Arlington, these slender dainty birds are known to be highly aggressive, attacking other birds while competing for mates and, like our little friends the Cardinal, they will attack their reflection in car finish and windows. The difference is, these are larger birds and their sharp talons can cause serious damage to car paint and people.
In 1969, residents of Arlington put mirrors in their yards to attract the attention of aggressive males to help stop assaults on people. Yes, the distracted bird will see their reflection and peck at the mirrors. This is only a problem when there are more males than hens; a dire situation for a bird species that gathers harems like deer herds. The group, however, are not not called a herd. A group of peafowl are referred to as a party.
When the males seek out peahens, they go into peacock dance mode. They raise their long tail feathers and fan them out. Then they shake, fluttering their tails like the wind blowing through an oak tree to get her attention. They will also turn their backs and sway back and forth to show off their fluffy rump feathers like the bird in the video below.
Paul Dinning’s Video of Peacock Calls and Mating Display
Peahens and Parenting
A peahen, unlike her glorious colored mate, is colored soft brown and gray with a white chest and belly and light green in their neck feathers. The colors blend into grasses and leaf strewn grounds so well; a female nesting on the ground is almost invisible. She will lay 2 to 6 eggs, but a few she uses as diversionary fodder. She will lay an egg or two as a decoy nest sometimes out in the open on the ground. Her serious final nest is carefully hidden. She will incubate the eggs for 28 days. Until the chicks come, she will only leave the nest once a day to eat making loud noises far from the nest to divert predators.
When the chicks fledge, they follow mother around learning what is good to eat. The peahen teaches by pointing to the right bugs with her beak and making a grunting call. The chicks all gather together probing where she points and gobbling up whatever is there. Within a few days the chicks can fly and will then roost in trees at night with their mother, who will spread her wings over them for protection. It takes 4 years for a peafowl to reach full growth.
Peahen and Chicks
Peafowl Foraging and Deterrence
Peafowl are omnivores. They eat a multitude of insects, small snakes, lizards, green shoots and other plants. This isn’t a problem until they also start eating garden plants and flowers. Petunias seem to be their favorite. When they go after gardens, they can cause a great deal of discontent.
The Best Ways to Deter Peafowl
- Do not feed them
- Treat them to a water blast from a hose
- To keep them out of gardens run bright colored streamers over flower beds.
I saw this last tactic used over the courtyard of an outdoor restaurant once. Spacing the string or streamers 4 to 6 inches apart will keep the birds from landing or getting into garden plots.
It takes four years for a peacock to reach full growth.
After breeding season in August, the birds molt, sometimes losing all their long tail feathers in a single day.
Their tails can have as many as 150 long elegant feathers.
As stated, peafowl are not native to any U.S. state, although they have developed wild colonies here in Texas and elsewhere. Predators I have seen mentioned mostly include dogs and raccoons. They are surprisingly hardy, handling American winters well. Only the leucistic white peafowl don’t handle our hard winters. When the birds become a nescience in Florida they are often trapped and sent to farms. Farmers love them because they control insects. Municipalities tend to treat peafowl the same as domestic birds, but some communities insist, whether they are native or not, that peafowl should be treated and categorized as wild birds.
Would you like to see Peafowl listed a a protected wild species in North America?
© 2015 Sherry Thornburg