Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) – Florida peacock
Peafowl, commonly called peacocks (specific to males, commonly used interchangeably) and females called peahens, include two Asiatic species and one African species of bird in the Phasianidae family and are common sights on an Everglades airboat tour. The Indian peafowls’ immature offspring are sometimes called peachicks. The Florida Peacock is a large, colorful pheasant, well known for their iridescent tails that spread out in a distinctive train. Keep an eye out for these birds while you’re here at the park.
PEACOCKS IN FLORIDA’S NEIGHBORHOOD
The peacock’s natural habitat is the forest or rainforest, originating from India, Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka, and Africa. In these locations, common peafowl roam freely in the wild, taking cover in the trees at night to sleep and avoid predators. A peacock that has access to water, food, and shelter will not leave its immediate area. These birds, the largest in the family of pheasants, are now found all through the South Florida area, and you will see the Florida Peacock at our park in abundance just walking around. This means that you will most likely see one on your private airboat tour.
The Native Habitat vs. Their Presence in Florida
These colorful birds are not native to Florida. Though they can be found in various parts of Florida, this is due to being introduced over the years. There are two possible reasons why the birds you see now are in Florida, and it traces back to escaped or intentionally released pets. Originally native to India and its open lowland forests, it is no longer unusual to see one wandering through a Miami neighborhood or other towns in Orange County. They are now considered a domestic species in the state.
Cultural Significance of Peacocks in Florida
The feelings surrounding these feral populations are mixed in the Sunshine State. There are residents who view the peacocks as beautiful birds who are part of the community. Many residents, however, see the birds and their growing population as an invasive species, which is becoming a nuisance.
THE LIFE OF WILD PEACOCKS
Peacock Interactions in the Florida Area
It is not uncommon to see a full-on courtship display between the birds as the male fans, flickers, and rattles his feathers to attract a mate. He will also use these large, colorful feathers to scare off predators like coyotes and bobcats. It seems successful since there is no evidence that the peacock population is dropping.
SIZE & APPEARANCE
The Indian peacock has iridescent blue and green plumage marked with eyespots and topped with a crest. Occasionally, peafowl have a complete lack of pigment due to a genetic mutation called leucism. The purpose of the peafowl plumage has been the topic of extensive scientific debate. A long-standing hypothesis by Charles Darwin suggests that they have developed through sexual selection. More recently, Amotz Zahavi proposed the handicap theory that the peacock’s plumage acts as signals of males’ fitness since less fit males would be disadvantaged by the large and conspicuous structures.
Florida Peacocks are omnivore ground feeders that typically dine on insects, leaves, and small mammals. Their diets can also include grains, small reptiles, berries, figs, and flower parts. A peafowl’s diet largely depends on what part of the world they live in and whether they are wild or domesticated. Be sure to try and spot some having a bite to eat when you’re on either an Everglades tour or a private airboat tour.
The Peacock Problem in South Florida
During mating season, peacocks can become fairly aggressive. Residents argue that they have damaged cars and other property besides leaving a mess in their wake. Residents would prefer to prevent damage in the future and keep their communities clean by relocating the birds.
Numerous counties in South Florida are fielding complaints but maybe none as intense as Miami-Dade County. There are various options with Miami Dade Animal Services for trapping and relocating pesky Indian peafowl. Relocating the birds outside of town could actually help them, as well, as they no longer encounter as many cars.
Safety and the Peacock Population
The flock is protected in Miami as a bird sanctuary city. A peacock sanctuary. Cities like Coconut Grove have tracked their population to be almost 1,000 birds. The birds have also spread into other parts of Miami Dade County, like Coral Gables.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says that, while peacocks are protected, there are things that can be done to keep the birds out of your yard and make sure their home range doesn’t get too close to yours. Try making sure that pet food is not left outdoors, and putting away bird feeders can be helpful. Many neighbors have found that spraying them with a water hose can discourage them from staying in the area.
- Peafowl have long been admired by humans and kept as pets for thousands of years.
- In Hindu culture, the peacock is the mount of the Lord Kartikeya, the god of war.
- In courtship, vocalization stands to be a primary way for peacocks to attract peahens. You may even hear the birds on your Everglades excursion.
- The Congo peacock was discovered in 1936 after a search began in 1913 with the finding of a single feather.
- A group of females is called a harem, while the correct term for a group of peacocks is a party.
- Peacocks can fly. Keep an eye out for a bird in flight while you’re on a Miami airboat tour.
FAQs About Peacock in Florida
- While ‘peacock’ refers to the male, ‘peafowl’ is the entire group of males and females.
- The Miami Herald routinely covers the good and bad of peafowl in their area. Most recently, they have reported on the prospect of sterilizing male peacocks.
- The exact impact of the Indian peafowl on the native wildlife in Florida is unknown, so it is not advised to further contribute to their population by releasing any pets.
- Male plumage, used to attract mates, now has scientific evidence to prove that this 60% extension to their bodies does not affect the birds’ flight performance.