Female Peacocks (Male vs Female: Identification Guide) (2023)

How can you tell if a peacock is male or female?

What is a peacock female called?

Are female peacocks bigger than males?

Behavior differences

Sexual selection and courtship

Raising young

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Calls and vocalizations

Can female peacocks raise young alone?

Can a female peacock fly?

Do female peacocks spread their feathers?

Are female peacocks colorful?

“Female peacocks” is an oxymoron. Peacocks are male peafowl, and peahens are female peafowl. There’s no such thing as a “male peacock”! Nevertheless, peafowl have come to be known simply as peacocks. Male peafowl - the peacocks - soak up all the attention thanks to their glorious plumage. This article is a guide to the unsung female peafowl - the peahen.

Female peafowl, aka peahens, are not nearly as lavish as their male counterparts. However, they’re still large and beautiful birds, with soft-brown chestnut plumage, a metallic-green neck, and a distinct head crest. Peacock are polygamous and mate with 3 to 5 females in one breeding season. The female peahen incubates and raises the chicks on her own, without assistance from the male.

There are just two species of peafowl in the Pavo genus of the Phasianidae family of ground-dwelling birds; the Indian peafowl and the Green peafowl.

While many people are familiar with captive peacocks and peahens, they do occur in the wild and are pretty abundant in parts of India.

Female peafowl - peahens - play a crucial role in the survival of this species. Let’s take the spotlight off peacocks for a minute and learn more about female peafowl!

Female Peacocks (Male vs Female: Identification Guide) (1)

Close up of a female peacock (peahen)

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How can you tell if a peacock is male or female?

Peacocks are male peafowl, whereas peahens are female peafowl. They are easy to tell apart - the males are extremely colorful with an immense train of tail feathers, whereas the females are predominantly lightish brown.

Peafowl display incredible sexual dimorphism, meaning that the male looks totally different from the female. The male peacock is unmistakable, and unforgettable, with incredible multi-colored metallic plumage and an extremely long train of tail feathers, adorned with ‘eyes’.

On the other hand, the female peahen is much more modestly colored. Adult peahens have rufous-brown heads with a similar crest to the male, a green metallic neck, and dark brown breasts with glossy green shades. The underparts are whitish. The female has a much shorter tail train than the male, which is scaly or mottled with brown, light brown, and copper.

Moreover, males are larger and heavier than females. The male typically measures 100 to 115cm (39 to 45in) in body length, extending to an incredible 195 to 225cm (77 to 89in) with its tail train. The males weigh around 4 to 6kg (8.8 to 13.2lb). The female peahens measure around 95cm (37in) in total length and weigh around 2.75 to 4kg (6.1 to 8.8lb).

Female Peacocks (Male vs Female: Identification Guide) (2)

Female Peahen (Indian Peafowl)

Female Peacocks (Male vs Female: Identification Guide) (3)

Male Peacock (Indian Peafowl)

What is a peacock female called?

“Female peacock” is categorically incorrect terminology. A female peacock is called a peahen, which is a female peafowl.

A peacock is, by definition, a male, similar to how male chickens are called cockerels. The word “cock” for a male bird is derived from the Old English cocc and Old French coq, which literally mean “male bird”.

Peahens are female peafowl. The word “hen” for a female bird is also derived from Old and Medieval English (originally from the Germanic hannjo).

Are female peacocks bigger than males?

Female peafowl are not bigger than males, on the contrary. Male peacocks are exceptionally large birds, measuring over 2 to 2.3m in length (6 to 7ft) when you include their immense tail train. Contrastingly, the peahen is around 90cm to 1m in length and has a much smaller tail train.

The male also weighs more than the female; 4 to 6kg compared to around 2.75 to 4kg for the female.

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Female Peacocks (Male vs Female: Identification Guide) (4)

Male peacock (left) and peahen (right), also referred to as female peacocks

Behavior differences

Both male and female peacocks exhibit many differences in their behavior, including some pretty interesting courtship and breeding tactics, which we'll go into more detail below.

Sexual selection and courtship

Male peafowl are polygamous and mate with a harem of 3 to 5 females. The male courtship dance is impressive; the males display by raising their tail into a huge arched fan. Next, he holds his wings half open and shakes and vibrates his long feathers. This produces quite a loud ruffling sound. The peacock then walks around and struts his plumage in front of the female.

Peafowl society is quite striking, and the differences between males and females puzzled early naturalists, including Charles Darwin. Darwin wrote to the American botanist Ada Gray “the sight of a feather in a peacock's tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!"

What puzzled Darwin was that he could see virtually no explanation for why the peacock’s plumage had evolved to become so elaborate. Many sexual dimorphisms are cosmetic or don’t affect the survivability of the species, so Darwin questioned why the peacock had evolved a very cumbersome tail that made it more susceptible to predators. However, Darwin was adept at solving such evolutionary conundrums, and peacocks prompted him to develop his theory of sexual selection.

Darwin posited that the females would continually select the males with the most elaborate plumage, causing a domino effect of evolutionary changes. Researchers today believe that this is indeed the case, though most studies find that females aren’t too bothered about choosing males with the biggest trains, most eyes, etc. So it’s almost certain that peacocks evolved for sexual selection, but it’s still a mystery how they became quite so elaborate.

Female Peacocks (Male vs Female: Identification Guide) (5)

A male peacock displaying to a female peahen

Raising young

Once a peacock mates with the peahen, he doesn’t hang around to assist with raising the chicks.

The female incubates the eggs for around 27 to 30 days, rarely leaving to feed or drink. During this time, the female can lose a considerable amount of weight. She’s fiercely defensive of the eggs and attacks anything that comes within about a 2m radius.

When the eggs hatch, the young peafowl - called peachicks - are able to walk within just hours. They follow their mother around, and she signals what they can eat by pecking.

The mother is extremely vigilant during this time and tries to confine her family to dense foliage. Males take almost no part in rearing the chicks. However, on exceptionally rare occasions, the male has been observed incubating the eggs, perhaps because the female died.

Female Peacocks (Male vs Female: Identification Guide) (6)

A female peacock (peahen) foraging for food on the ground

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Calls and vocalizations

The peacock’s main call has been described as a harsh, powerful trumpet-like sound may-awe. Another of their calls sounds like a series of loud screams or shrieks ka-aan, which are repeated several times in quick succession. The male also ‘hoots’ when he approaches the female for copulation.

The female’s calls are different, consisting of a metallic kok-kok and kha-kha-kha, which the mother hen makes when agitated.

Can female peacocks raise young alone?

Female peahens raise the young alone in the wild. Once mated, the peahen will isolate herself away from males and other peahens and lays her clutch alone.

After incubating the eggs for around 30 days, the female rears the chicks for up to 9 months before they become fully independent.

While wild peahens are extremely dedicated single mothers, their motherly instincts are often very weak in captivity. When kept in captivity, some peahens take little to no interest in their chicks.

Female Peacocks (Male vs Female: Identification Guide) (7)

A peahen (female peacock) with her young chicks

Can a female peacock fly?

Female peafowl are able to fly, the same as males.

They can probably take off quicker thanks to their shorter, lighter tails! Peafowl are strong short-distance flyers, but usually only leave the ground to fly to a treetop perch.

Do female peacocks spread their feathers?

Female peafowl do have a train of feathers, but it’s insignificant compared to the males. In addition, they don’t possess the same fan-like tail feathers as the male.

Female Peacocks (Male vs Female: Identification Guide) (8)

Close up of a female peacock (Indian Peafowl Peahen)

Are female peacocks colorful?

Female peacocks do have a metallic green sheen to some of their upperparts and neck.

Despite not boasting the same extravagant plumage as the male, they are still beautiful, striking, and large birds with plenty of aesthetic qualities of their own!

Expert Q + A

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FAQs

How can you tell a male peacock from a female peacock? ›

Male peacocks usually have tail feathers that measure between 2 feet and 5 feet long. Male feathers have a range of colors, while female peacocks lack a train of feathers all together. The female's tail feathers are short, and usually brown and cream colored.

When can you tell the difference between a male and female peacock? ›

Males are usually an iridescent shade of bright blue. This bold coloration helps them to attract mates. Females, on the other hand, have much more subdued plumage. Their feathers tend to be either brown, gray or cream in color.

Which peacock is female? ›

Technically, only males are peacocks. Females are peahens, and together, they are called peafowl.

Can peacock give birth without mating? ›

“The peacock is a lifelong Bhramachari (celibate). He never has sex with the peahen. The peahen pecks on the tears of the peacock to get pregnant. That's how she gives birth to a peacock or a peahen,” Justice MC Sharma declared.

What is the Colour of female peacock? ›

Females of the Indian and African species are dull grey and/or brown. Chicks of both sexes in all the species are cryptically coloured. They vary between yellow and tawny, usually with patches of darker brown or light tan and "dirty white" ivory.

What is a group of peacocks called? ›

A group of peafowl is called an ostentation, or a pride—very appropriate for this showy bird.

What does peahen look like? ›

Peahens, female peafowl, are mostly brown with a white belly, a green neck and the same type of head crest. Peafowl are polygamus. The peahen mates, then goes off to lay eggs and raise her offspring alone. Peachicks are precocial -- covered in down and with open eyes -- at hatching.

What is the life expectancy of a peacock? ›

Lifespan: In the wild, peafowl live 10 to 25 years. Domesticated peafowl have been known to live as long as 40 to 50 years.

Which peacock is most beautiful male or female? ›

Males are the more attractive of the two, featuring vibrant blue and/or green feathers that are hard to look away from when they are fully extended. Their bright feathers are designed to impress females during the mating season. Female peafowl feathers are more muted than the males' and may not be blue or green at all.

Can a male peacock mate with a chicken? ›

Unfortunately, peacocks and chickens cannot breed together. They cannot do this in the wild, and so far, have not been able to even with the help of artificial insemination. The two species of birds are just too different for their genes to match up.

Does peacock get pregnant by tears? ›

JAIPUR: A Rajasthan High Court judge, who recommended that the cow be declared the national animal, on Thursday said peacocks don't mate peahens but sire offsprings with their tears. Presenting this unique theory he described both the species as "pious". “Peacock too has his qualities.

What are peacocks afraid of? ›

Peafowl are afraid of dogs. Walk your dog around the property and neighborhood. Peafowl does not like water. Water is one of the best-known deterrents for peafowl.

What is the rarest peacock color? ›

The white peafowl is a rare and beautiful sight, and this white peacock, with around 150 feathers extended, is sure to be noticed. White peafowls are Indian Blue Peafowls (Pavo cristatus) with a rare genetic mutation called leucism.

What does a purple peacock look like? ›

Purple Peacocks are very like the Indian Blue colouration, however they have hues of Purple sheen on their neck and breast. The train of the Purple peacock is darker in colour than an Indian Blue and there are shades of purple and green within the eyes of the tail.

What is it called when a peacock spreads its tail? ›

They not only fan out those spectacular tail feathers — called a train — to tempt pea hens, but they also shake them in a behavior called train rattling. Dr.

Why is it called peacock? ›

Middle English also had poun "peacock" from Old French paon. Noted for its strutting gait, imposing magnificence, and the ostentatious displays of its beautiful tail, the peacock in his pride is one with his tail fully displayed. Used as the type of a vainglorious person from mid-14c. (proud as a po).

What is a group of giraffe called? ›

A group of giraffe are called a 'tower', which is a great example of collective nouns at their descriptive best.

Do peahens display their tail? ›

While male peacocks display their tails during courtship, females may also display their tail feathers, when they are excited or threatened. Peahens often display their feathers as a signal of danger for its chicks, or while fighting with other females over a potential mate.

Do peahens have feathers on their head? ›

Peahens are more drab than their male counterparts, with mostly brown on their back with a white belly. Females don't have long tail feathers, but they do have a crest on their head and green neck feathers.

What is a pee hen? ›

[ pee-hen ] SHOW IPA. / ˈpiˌhɛn / PHONETIC RESPELLING. 🎓 College Level. noun. the female peafowl.

How long does it take for a male peacock to mature? ›

Also, first-time peafowl owners can often be discouraged by the fact that it takes three years for a peacock to fully develop its elaborate tail feathers and become sexually mature, while peahens rarely lay eggs in their first year.

At what age peacock are fully grown? ›

Whilst peacocks typically reach skeletal maturity in around one year, their feathers take much longer to fully develop - typically at least three years. What is this? Most peacocks have very few tail feathers even by the age of 1 - they take another two years to reach something like full sexual maturity.

Can a male peacock live alone? ›

They are a forest bird that roost in large trees but spend most of their time foraging on the ground. In the wild they live near forest edges and in clearings. 8. Males live alone, females in small groups.

Are peacocks friendly? ›

Although peacocks have a reputation as friendly birds, it's not necessarily deserved. They are obsessed with food and can become extremely aggressive “when you dangle french fries in front of them,” Webster said. They are also hard on landscaping, digging up flower bulbs along with the squirrels, he said.

What do you feed peacocks? ›

In captivity peafowl are usually fed a supplemented feed provided by their carers. Peacocks also eat cat food, cheese, nuts, scrambled eggs, cooked rice, grains and kitchen scraps. It is important to feed peafowl a high protein diet to maintain optimum health.

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