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Sep 24

Peacock Day

Peacock Feathers
Peacock Feathers #3
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Eyes of Peacock Feathers
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"When the peacock has presented his back, the spectator will usually begin to walk around him to get a front view; but the peacock will continue to turn so that no front view is possible. The thing to do then is to stand still and wait until it pleases him to turn. When it suits him, the peacock will face you. Then you will see in a green-bronze arch around him a galaxy of gazing, haloed suns."

~ Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964)

The functions of the elaborate iridescent colouration and large display of peacocks have been the subject of extensive scientific debate.  Charles Darwin suggested they served to attract females, the showy features of the males evolving by sexual selection.  However, a more recent theory, the "handicap" theory suggests that these features acted as honest signals of the males' fitness, since less fit males would be disadvantaged by the difficulty of surviving with such large and conspicuous structures. Alternatively, a food-courtship theory states that peahens are attracted to peacocks for the resemblance of their eye spots to blue berries!

Peacocks, although they have mixed reputation in various cultures for both good and bad luck, share this celebratory day with another blue bird for Bluebird(s) of Happiness & Peacock Day.  Though not specifically a bluebird, but certainly a bird of blue, the peacock is one most brilliant blue birds of them all.

Unlike most birds, peacocks do not derive their colors purely from pigments, but from a combination of pigments and photonic crystals. This combination causes the feathers to reflect different wavelengths of light depending upon the angle of the light and the spacing of the crystals. The result is the iridescent shades of blue, green, brown and yellow commonly found in a peacock's train.

This tartan, by designer Carol A.L. Martin, focusses on the brilliant colours of the eye of the peacock feather.

The peafowl include two Asiatic bird species (the blue or Indian peafowl originally of India and Sri Lanka and the green peafowl of Myanmar, Indochina, and Java) and one African species (the Congo peafowl native only to the Congo Basin).  

 

Peacocks are known for the male's piercing call and, among the Asiatic species, his extravagant eye-spotted tail feathers which he displays as part of a courtship ritual. 

The male peachicks don’t start growing their showy trains until about age three. In fact, it’s hard to tell the sex of a peachick because they’re nearly identical to their mothers. At around six months, the males will begin to change color.

A peacock’s tail feathers can reach up to six feet long and make up about 60 percent of its body length. Despite these odd proportions, the bird flies just fine, if not very far.

In medieval times, the peacocks were considered a delicacy for the tables of lords and ladies. The birds may have looked beautiful, but they reportedly tasted terrible. The meat was tough and coarse, and was criticized by physicians for being difficult to digest and for generating bad humors.

Interestingly, the  female peacock has special sensors in her crest that allow her to feel the vibrations of mate who may be located far away. According to The Atlantic, the feathers are "tuned to vibrate at the exact same frequencies at which a displaying peacock rattles his tail." Whenever a male peacock fans his tail, he shakes it at a rate of 26 times a second, creating a pressure-wave that literally rattles the female's head for attention! ​

For a better look at a brilliant display of a male peacock in video, click the feathers.