Hot on the heels of an Egyptian Cobra that recently escaped its Bronx Zoo enclosure, a Peahen has now (May 10, 2011) gone one better and is hiding out somewhere in the neighborhood near the zoo. The zoo’s Peafowl range freely on its grounds, and can fly, but in all my years working at there none “decided” to leave. This, and some newly discovered information on Peafowl mating behavior, sparked today’s article.
Peafowl in the Bronx Zoo and on Bronx Streets
Dozens of Peafowl have roamed the Bronx Zoo’s park-like grounds since at least the 1920’s, delighting visitors with their displays, raucous calls and scores of chicks each spring. They can fly well…in fact, when I first saw several roosting high in a tree in the pre-dawn darkness one morning, I thought perhaps some sort of aberrant, long-tailed eagle had wandered in! They are fully capable of flying out into the neighborhood at any time, but seem quite content to stay put. In my time at the zoo, I made sure to tap all the experienced, older keepers’ brains regularly, and do not recall hearing of earlier escapes.
So far, the bird has eluded capture. Although Bronx streets do not seem ideal Peafowl habitat (please see photo), these birds are clever, fleet-of-foot and ultimate survivors, and I believe the escapee is up to the task of avoiding trouble. Hopefully, the strange environment will not distort her sense of direction, and she’ll return on her own; males call often at this time of year, which should help.
Postscript: All turned out well; although zoo spokespeople did not go into details (as is typical for zoos in theses situations!), it seems that the bird was found in a neighborhood garage and returned safely.
A Peahen on Twitter?
It’s difficult to guess why this particular individual departed – Peafowl can be quarrelsome and territorial, so perhaps she was chased…but thanks to Twitter, you can ask her! Yes, the escapee herself is said to be “tweeting”…and she has almost 5,000 followers! You can check out the latest from her here. “The zoo could not contain my fabulousness”, and a thwarted plan to break out with the now-experienced Egyptian Cobra, are my favorites.
Peafowl as Pets
Peafowl are wonderful birds to keep about the farm or in a (very) large yard or aviary, and are quite popular pets in some places. The males’ loud voices do present problems…in fact, some communities on Long Island apparently passed legislation requiring that the vocal cords of pet Peacocks be surgically severed.
Years ago, I had the good fortune to observe a Peafowl chick being raised by a female Wild Turkey…please see the article below for details.
Why Grow Showy Feathers?
Male Peafowl, or Peacocks, are classic examples of the importance of extravagant displays and plumage in mating behavior. Their long, colorful feather trains are unrivaled in the avian world. I always blindly accepted the explanation for these feathers as being “to attract females”. This idea was jarred one day in my childhood, however, on one of my many visits to the American Museum of Natural History.
I was standing before the Asian Leopard exhibit. The diorama depicted a Leopard about to feed on a Peacock it had captured, and the background painting showed several others flying off. The scene was a clearing within a dense forest. It occurred to me that such a huge tail would be a hindrance in escaping predators, and I wondered why females would prefer males with large, colorful tails, if having one increased their chances of winding up as a predator’s dinner. Well, there is a theory that explains this, and it is quite interesting…pleased see this article to read more on this topic.
A study published in a recent (April, 2011) issue of Animal Behavior shows that female Peafowl, or Peahens, may utilize a range of characteristics when judging a potential mate’s suitability. Peacocks with few “eyespots” on their tails attracted as many Peahens as males with many eyespots. However, when researchers clipped feathers so as to reduce the number of eyespots, the clipped males did not attract many mates.
Studies seeking to discover just what inspires females are now being conducted at Queen’s University…I’ll post updates when available.
A Giant Crane Flies Free
The largest avian escapee I’ve handled was a 6-foot-tall Saurus Crane (please blog link below) which, amazingly, was returned to the zoo by a 13 year old boy! You can read more about that incident in the article linked below.
Bruckner Boulevard image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Jim Henderson