Peacocks are mysterious and magnificent birds. They are steeped in history and have symbolized some powerful, spiritual things throughout history.
One of the biggest misconceptions about peacocks is that they are a species. It’s actually peafowl that is the species, and peacocks are the males.
Female peafowl are called peahens, and much like most species of bird, the females look very different from males.
In this article, I’m going to show and explain exactly what male peafowl (peacocks) look like so you can tell the difference between female and male peafowl.
What Does a Male Peacock Look Like?
All peacocks are males. Female peafowl are called peahens, and peacocks are male peafowl.
It’s also worth pointing out that there are three main types of peafowl;
- Indian Blue Peafowl
- Green Peafowl
- Congo Peafowl
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to be focusing on the Indian blue peafowl as they are by far the most common and the representative species you’ll be familiar with.
Peacocks are one of - if not - the most magnificent and iconic looking birds. They have huge tail feathers that are an iridescent shade of bright blue and green with ‘eyes’.
Indian blue peafowl weighs somewhere in the range of 9 to 13 pounds. They are about four feet tall, and their magnificent feathers can reach up to six feet long!
If you take a close look at a peacock’s head, you’ll notice some very interesting features.
They have a crest of stiff feathers on the top of their heads, and typically a blend of shiny blue feathers with white and green stripes.
If I had to sum up what a peacock looks like in a few words, I’d say;
Peacocks are large, slim birds, with iridescent shades of blue and green feathers, they’re capable of performing a stunning tail display and have a very graceful presence.
Do Only Male Peacocks Have Feathers?
No, both male and female peahens have tail feathers - it’s just much rarer to see a peahen, and even rarer to see her spreading her tail feathers.
It’s the male peafowl, the peacock that is, of course, known for its impressive tail display.
The females also spread their feathers, but it doesn’t look as impressive as when peacocks spread their feathers.
This is because peahens are much blander in color than peacocks.
They’re mostly brown, or beige in color, and their tail feathers do not have the impressive iridescent shades or symbolic ‘eyes’ in the pattern.
The main reason why peacocks spread their tail feathers is to attract a mate. It’s believed that the larger and more impressive their feather display, the more likely they are to attract a mate.
Females, on the other hand, do not spread their feathers to attract a mate. They’re the ones being chased, they don’t need to!
They typically spread their tail feathers when they feel threatened as it’s a good way to make themselves appear larger.
So, if you see a peahen spreading its feathers - you can admire it, but I’d do so from a distance in case they’re feeling threatened.
How Can You Tell a Peacock From a Peahen?
As you can see from the pictures in this post, it’s not hard to tell the difference between a peacock and a peahen.
The most obvious difference is that peacocks have bright colors, while peahens do not, they’re pretty bland in comparison.
Admittedly, their heads are fairly similar, albeit a different color. But that’s really the most they have in common.
Peacocks are also much larger than peahens physically, as males often are. Their long tail feathers can span 3-4 feet, and drag behind them.
While peahens have much shorter tail feathers that often barely touch the floor as they’re walking.
Side-by-side there is a very noticeable difference between female and male adult peahens. As chicks, peafowl look very similar physically until they are about a year old.
Without sexing them, it’s really only after peafowl are a year old that you can start to see whether they are peacocks or peafowl as their tail feathers develop.
It’s important to first know the difference between peacocks and peahens. Both are peafowl; male peafowl are called peacocks, and female peafowl are called peahens.
Peacocks are extravagant birds. They have iridescent blue and green feathers, with magnificent, long tail feathers dotted with eyespots.
The Indian Blue Peacock has iridescent green coloring on their necks and heads, with white stripes by their eyes and tufts of feathers crested on their heads.
In contrast, the females or peahens are shades of brown and beige. Their tail displays are nothing like a peacock’s, and it’s very easy to tell the difference between a peahen and a peacock.
Image credits - Header Photo by Lenstravelier, and Peacock in-body image by Lilian Dibbern on Unsplash