Female peacocks, called peahens, do spread their tail feathers but it’s nothing like the display a male peacock will make when fanning their tail feathers.
Peahens do not have large colorful tail feathers with a distinctive eye pattern like peacocks do. They have much shorter, blander, brownish tail feathers.
They will spread their tail feathers and shake them, but typically if they feel threatened or in danger. They do this to make themselves appear larger and more intimidating.
Here’s a closer look at the differences between male and female peafowls, known as peacocks and peahens when it comes to feather displaying and colors:
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Difference Between Peafowl, Peacocks, and Peahens
First of all, let me clear something up; ‘peafowl’ is the correct name for the species, while ‘peacocks’ are the males and ‘peahens’ are the females.
Very much like chickens, with hens being the females and roosters or cockerels being the males.
Don’t feel bad if you thought there were male and female peacocks. I think most people think this, to be honest.
This is probably because it’s much more common to see peacocks, as they’re the ones that are colorful and produce that magnificent tail fanning display.
So, to clarify:
- Peafowl - The name for the species of bird containing peacocks and peahens.
- Peacock - Male peafowl.
- Peahen - Female peafowl.
- Peachick - Baby peafowl.
Related - I explain more peafowl terminology here.
The Difference Between Peacocks and Peahens Colorings
The main difference between males and females is their color. This is common in the animal kingdom - and with birds in particular - as being more colorful serves some important purposes for the males.
There are three main types of peacocks, the Indian (Blue) Peafowl, Green Peafowl, and Congo Peafowl.
The Indian peafowl is the most common, and this is the variation that has the blue, gold, and green colors with the ‘eye’ patterns which are also referred to as ocellations.
Females, on the other hand, and much more bland in appearance. They are typically shades of brown with some white patches.
The only real ‘color’ is a patch of blue/metallic green that will be on their back of their necks sometimes.
Why Do Peacocks Spread Their Feathers
The main reason why peacocks spread out their tail feather is to attract a mate. It’s believed that the larger, more colorful, and the more eye spots a peacock has, the more likely they are to attract a peahen to mate.
This is how - through evolution and many thousands of years - the peacock has got to the point where their tail feathers are so huge.
Essentially, through the process of selective breeding due to the peacock with the largest feathers mating the most, the offspring carry the genes with the most feathers.
In addition to making a visual display that peahens can’t miss, an article published by the BBC also explains how they vibrate their tail feathers to make a loud noise.
A loud noise that humans are not capable of hearing - but peahens can hear perfectly and it’ll get their attention.
Another reason why a peacock will spread out their tail feathers is an act of aggression. If they feel threatened, they will spread out their feathers to make themselves seem as large as possible.
This is common in the animal kingdom. Various animals will puff themselves up or have their fur stand on end to appear bigger.
But, let’s be honest, there are few animals that are able to increase their size as much as a peacock does. With tails fully extended, peacocks can easily be 2+ meters tall!
If you’re standing close to a peacock when it fans out its feathers, I recommend backing away.
Peacocks are capable of causing some serious damage when they feel threatened. They use their beaks, claws, and spurs to fight, and each is capable of drawing blood.
Do Female Peacocks Spread Their Feathers?
Female peafowls are capable of spreading their tail feathers - it’s just that they don’t have a lot of long tail feathers to spread out.
They don’t spread their feathers as part of the courting ritual. It’s the peacock’s job to attract a mate, and again, peahens do not have the impressive feathers to do so anyway.
The only time peahens really spread out their feathers is to try and make themselves appear bigger when they feel threatened.
So, if you see a female peafowl spread her feathers, I wouldn't stand around to admire it. I’d back up pretty quickly so they don’t feel threatened, and so that you don’t have an angry peahen coming in your direction!
We covered a few things in this article. You now know that female peafowl are called peahens, and they don’t have the same impressive tail feather display as the males (peacocks) do.
If you see a peafowl spreading their large, colorful tail feathers, it’s always going to be a male peacock.
The females are much blander. They’re typically brown and white for the most part, and they only spread their small tail feathers as an act of aggression when they feel threatened.
All of these factors play crucial roles in the wild. Enabling peacocks to attract mates and protect their flock, while peahens are able to be a lot more discreet and look after their peachicks while avoiding predators.
Image credits - Photo by Christian Paul Stobbe on Unsplash