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Peacock
Female peafowl
The national bird of India, the spectacular appearance of the male Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus) (Say it: paw-VOH KRISS-TAH-TUSS), or ‘peacock’, is well-known throughout the world. The male’s head, neck and breast are a glossy, iridescent blue, with white patches above and below the eyes, along with a crest of upright, blue-tipped feathers on the crown of the head. By contrast, the back and wings are greyish-brown with brown barring. Undoubtedly the most striking feature of this species is the long ‘train’ of feathers at the rear, which, in the male, can encompass nearly two-thirds of the total body length. Often mistaken for a tail, the train is in fact composed of long tail coverts, while the true tail feathers comprise short stiff quills that help to hold the train aloft. The feathers of the train lack the barbed structure that normally holds bird feathers together, hence they look loose and fluffy, and each bears a striking eyespot or ‘ocellus'. The female Indian peafowl or ‘peahen’ is far more understated, with a whitish face and throat, brown crown, hindneck and back, a white belly and a metallic green upper breast. The train is present, but much shorter and lacks the distinctive eyespots. The call of the Indian peafowl, which is commonly used to advertise the presence of the male during the breeding season, but also heard in the late afternoon and after dark, is a loud, trumpet-like scream “kee-ow”.

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