The courtship display of feral peafowl.
The Blue Peafowl Pavo cristatus is famous for its spectacular train of decorated feathers. Yet there is surprisingly little known about how this train is employed during display. The subject may be of more than academic interest for the Peacock is thought to be a classic example of the evolution of female choice (Darwin 1871, Fisher 1930, Ridley 1981). Recent work supports Darwin's original idea that a female preference for decorated males can lead to the evolution of ornaments, which, in everyday life, are handicaps to the males' survival (Andersson 1982, Halliday 1983). We studied the courtship behaviour of the Peacock in a preliminary attempt to discover whether the train influences a Peahen's choice of mate.
There is little published information on the Peacock's display. Heinroth (1941) and Schenkel (1956) have described details of courtship in captivity and Sharma (1970) has discussed the factors affecting the cock's display in the wild. In a previous paper (Rands, Ridley and Lelliott 1984) we gave a new interpretation of the social organisation of Peafowl.
In this paper, we refer to the long ocellus-bearing plumes (of which each male has about 200) as the train when folded, the fan when spread. These feathers are tail coverts and rump feathers, not true tail feathers.