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Magnificent Peacocks: The Story of Pete

Marcy is a school counselor at an alternative school in Illinois and a part-time bartender who loves writing in her spare time.

Gorgeous Pete with train fully spread.

Gorgeous Pete with train fully spread.

Pete the Peacock

About ten years ago, an adult peacock appeared at my inlaw's farm near Champaign, Illinois. It was quite a shock when my mother-in-law, Mary, went out to feed her chickens, and a full-grown male peacock greeted her.

He was tame and not at all aggressive, obviously someone's pet. He would saunter around the chicken yard as if he belonged there. A few days went by, and the peacock was still roaming with his chicken friends and even adventuring into the rest of the yard. Mary decided she needed to call around to see if any neighboring farms were missing a peacock. After several conversations, she was no closer to finding this bird's owner, so she decided if he was going to stay, he needed a name. From that day forward, this magnificent fowl was called Pete.

Pete has been the topic of many conversations over the years. He seems to appear out of nowhere when people come to the farm. He is quite nosy that way. One of his favorite spots is perched on top of the swingset. This choice initially aggravated my mother-in-law because he would leave droppings all over the swing. She has tried many tactics to keep him off of the swingset, even a spiked tack strip on top, but Pete still claims the swingset as his own. At this point, Mary has conceded the fight and lets Pete have his spot. Needless to say, no one gets to sit on the swing -- except Pete.


Pete on his swing. He has lost almost all of his train in this picture.

Pete on his swing. He has lost almost all of his train in this picture.

Peeping Pete

Pete is quite social and took to hanging out on the deck this last winter. He would make himself at home, looking in the picture window, seeing what everyone was doing. It was startling the first few times Mary looked up to see Pete staring back. As you can tell, Pete does what Pete wants, so Mary did not try to dissuade him from going on the deck. In fact, she grew quite accustomed to watching him. It was still always a brief scare, however, when going to her back door by the deck. Pete would hop up on the railing to greet us and frighten me to death every time.

Over the years, Mary and her grandchildren have enjoyed finding Pete's feathers all over the farm. Mary has a huge vase in her dining room that houses these treasures. Every year when Pete sheds his train, Mary displays a new bouquet. Some people believe it is good luck to find a peacock feather. If this is true, Mary is definitely blessed with ample luck.

Pete has always fascinated me. I wonder where he came from and if he chose Mary's farm or if someone left him there. These are questions we will never know, but it seems Pete has been happy there from the beginning. Based on what we can surmise, we probably have about six or eight more years with Pete, but we cannot be sure. One thing is for certain; as long as he is there, he will continue to walk around like he owns the place. Well, wouldn't you if you had that magnificent train? He's a cocky old bird, that's for sure, but we love him.

A great view of Pete with a full train.

A great view of Pete with a full train.

Some General Information About Peafowl

When you think of a peacock, you most likely think of the magnificent spread of feathers, only the male produces. Generally, people refer to both sexes of peafowl as "peacock." However, this term technically only applies to the male. The female is a peahen, and collectively, the male and female are peafowl from the pheasant family. All wild peafowl live in the lowlands of the forest. During the day, a bevy, or family, of peafowl roam in flocks. At night, however, they roost high in the trees.

The signature train of feathers the males are known for is an integral part of the mating ritual. When ready to mate, males lift their tails, which are under the train feathers. This action brings the train forward, causing the elaborate spread. The peacock then makes the feathers vibrate, creating a mesmerizing display of colors to attract females. Females are believed to choose a male based on the size, color, and quality of the feather train.

Males become sexually active by age three and can have harems of several females, each laying 3 - 8 eggs in a ground depression. The peahen is responsible for incubating the eggs for their 28-day cycle. The males then shed their train every year after the mating season. Healthy peafowl can live up to twenty years.


Kinds of Peafowl

There are two main species of peafowl: blue and green. The blue species originates from India and Sri Lanka. The blue peafowl are generally the ones in captivity in North American zoos and kept as pets because they are capable of surviving the harsh winters that occur in that part of the world. The green species from Java and Myanmar (Burma) need a warmer climate to survive. A little known species, the Congo species, was discovered after a single feather was found in the African rain forest in 1913. Confirmation of this elusive bird was not made until 1936, however. The Congo species is considerably smaller than the blue and green peafowl with less dramatic coloring as well.


Beautiful!

Beautiful!

Summary

Peafowl are unique creatures that not only possess great beauty, but they also have quite pleasant personalities. Or, at least this is the case with Pete. Getting to know Pete has given me a real curiosity regarding his origin. Peacocks don’t usually show up for no reason. I prefer to think Pete left a less desirable place and landed at Mary’s. Regardless of the original circumstance, I’m pretty sure Pete is there to stay.

© 2020 Marcy Bialeschki

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