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Peafowl Notes – Escaped Peahen Roams the Bronx; Peacock Display Research

PeacockHot 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?

Bruckner Boulevard
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 Peacock courting Peahenhaving 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.



Further Reading

Peafowl Care and Breeding  

Peafowl and Turkeys: an Uneasy Alliance  

The Great Crane Escape  


Bruckner Boulevard image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Jim Henderson


  1. avatar

    Frank I love to read your stories. I live down Fl. on 3 acres. And I have 20 peafowls and one is a pet. We took her in as a very small chick, 4 days old. We could not tell who was the mom. We tried to put her back with some pea chicks, but no good. Thanks again. From, Linda/Fl.

  2. avatar

    Hello Linda, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Nice to hear from you again; Thanks for the kind words.

    I’ve seen the same in a few species, especially pheasants. They pick up the wrong cues, don’t learn the right behaviors, and are rejected or attacked. Almost guaranteed among mammals also.

    A Great Horned Owl I raised tried to stuff mice into people’s mouths when he matured, but fled from female owls (but he was a great education bird)…

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    I’m looking at raising peacocks soon, so any advice like this is great for me

  4. avatar

    Thanks for the kind words; good luck and please keep me posted, Best, Frank

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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