12 September 2020

78. Our Peacock's Tail?

To attract a peahen, a peacock raises his train into a wide fan shape, then shimmies and shakes, enclosing her in a glorious cave of long feathers.

 

The display never fails to impress anyone who sees it, except the peahen. She pretends complete indifference until she is quite ready. 

Oh, our dog doesnt like it either, and often scoots away with his own tail between his legs. 

The size and grandeur of the tail must make the experience intimidating for another species. 

I can see why, that iridescent shimmy-shake is a bit imposing.

 Popples looks like a shape shifter. 


Strutting about, stomping with a bright blue triangle chest and magnetic, determined eyes.

Gullible, I  have a history of believing nonsense but doubting the facts. 

Googling after we bought our peacock, Mr. Popples, I discovered that Indian, or Common Peafowl, live for twenty years in the wild, but up to fifty in captivity. 

Disbelieving, I had to check two other websites to prove it. 

I wondered if Poppy the peahen and Mr. Popples would outlive me. 

Five decades is a long life for any pet.

But, that’s nothing compared to my disbelief when I read that a peacock loses his tail straight after the breeding season in March. 

The above is a photo of Popples with only half coverts left, looking straggly.

To make it worse, Mr. Google revealed the incredible tail wasn’t a tail in the first place.

 

Checking other, more scientific sites for validity, I found it doubtful when everybody had been calling Popples tail a tail since he first arrived with a crumpled one.

 










I scanned peacock photos of Popples with his tail up. 










Checking out full-screen versions of him pointing his rear in my face, which he always thought his best side.

 










The magnificent tail, sorry, not a tail, springs up from the middle of his back. 

I’m guessing only that position could support two hundred long, eye-spot and fishtail feathers. 

The elaborate train goes vertical close to the base of his neck.

 

According to ornithologists, what I’ve been calling a tail is really ‘upper tail coverts’. A true peacock tail is grey-brown and boring, like the females.

Real tail feathers are those supports in the middle, above downy white fluff!








 

Male Indian Peafowl do have tails, but they are only displayed right after molting, when they’ve lost all their upper tail coverts

Poor Mr. Popples. This half-pet, half-wild and uncaged specimen doesn’t just have the blue-green-golden bronze...coverts

We see pink, orange and mystical mauve fringing on the edges as well. 

In fact, the same peacock looks completely different depending on his age, the weather, the light and the cloud cover.

The tail is at its best in the summer breeding season, when the birds have pristine metallic plumage that glows and shines.

Not to mention a whole new range of iridescent aquamarine colors when he stands out in direct sunlight.

 These photos were taken years ago, long before I bought a decent camera. 

Most pics are in the shade, but Popples still looks okay on gloomy days carrying his 2-metre long train off the ground behind him.

We bought him to be the mate of our lonely peahen.

She adores him.

Mostly. 

I guess. 

Though they compete hard to grab the most food.

And she bites him if he gets too familiar.

The two run around the garden together, making tracks beneath the shrubs. 

They bolt to the garage when aircraft or a Wedge-tailed Eagle flies past.

It doesn’t really matter what it’s called. 

Popples’ tail/coverts are always awesome.

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