Few birds have a more striking array of plumage than the peacock, the stunning male of the peafowl species. The two most common and recognized peafowl species are the Indian peafowl (Pavo cristalus) and the green peafowl (Pavo muticus). The Indian peacock, marked by vibrant iridescent blue plumage, is the variety most commonly seen at zoos and most often bred by peafowl breeders. The newborn peachick possesses very few of the trademark characteristics that peacocks attain at adulthood.
Both male and female peafowl are typically ready to breed by 2 years of age, although most peacocks don't reach the peak of their fertility until age 3. When a peahen is successfully courted by and has mated with a peacock, she will find an isolated location in a wooded area in which to nest, where she will lay between five and nine tan or off-white eggs -- eggs three times as large as those of a chicken. For the next 28 or 30 days, the peahen sits atop her incubating brood, leaving the nest once a day to find nourishment.
Appearance and Characteristics
After about a month of in-shell development, yellow and brown peachicks emerge. This early, it can be difficult to determine chicks' genders since they've yet to develop the colorful feathers that distinguish peacocks from peahens. A bit gawky, peachicks are characterized by prominent wings, long slender necks and lanky legs that end at the tips of four talons.
According to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park website, peacocks are not born with an innate understanding of how to eat; the mother peahen must teach her young. She does so by pecking at and pointing out food sources, dropping pieces of food in front of the chicks, or gripping morsels in her beak to encourage her babies to eat. This process usually entails a great deal of vocalization from both the peahen and her young.
Baby peacocks have strong appetites. Omnivores, will consume a variety of terrestrial nutrients as well as some aquatic foods. They may actively hunt for prey or more passively peck away at flora, seeds and tiny fauna. Peachicks enjoy a varied diet of flowers, grasses and seeds but also crave protein-rich food sources such as spiders, small insects, reptiles and amphibians, and even small fish that they hunt from shallow bodies of water.
Baby Peacock Behavior
For the first six weeks of life, peachicks require a very warm environment that averages somewhere between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. For breeders, this means incubation; in the wild, it means simply snuggling up beneath the peahen's wings. The chicks will gradually adapt to the cold. In a captive setting, the breeder reduces the chicks' temperature a few degrees a week until the ambient temperature is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most peachicks can fly within days of birth. The mother peahen encourages flight at nighttime, when she'll light on a branch and call down for her chicks to join her. If they want the safety and warmth of her welcoming wings, they'll need to come to her. As baby peacocks mature, they need grassy areas in which to run, spread their wings and hunt. A mother peahen will stay with and rear her chicks for at least six months, a period of nurturing critical to her peachicks' well-being and overall health.
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