Discussion in 'Peafowl' started by Resolution, Feb 20, 2012.

  1. Resolution

    Resolution Chillin' With My Peeps

    An Eastern Cattle Egret searches for cockroaches as an adult Malaysian Great Argus engages a subadult " Blue Shouldered Bengal" peacock ( peafowl descended of two hybrid parents). Many people don't realise that the Great Argus is a kind of peafowl and that these two seemingly very different birds are each others closest living relatives. Peafowl, including Argus require certain levels of specific amino acids and antioxidants in their diets to produce their impressive plumage and live long, productive lives. Some peafowl, like the Great Argus, fail in captivity largely because of inadequate nutrition. Their mortality far exceeds their reproductive success in most collections.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  2. Resolution

    Resolution Chillin' With My Peeps

    Let's define what a peafowl is precisely.

    It's my intention to provide as much information weighted in the sort of facts that substantiate the unique nature of peafowl.
    So what is a peafowl exactly? How do they differ from Pheasants and Turkeys?
    Skulls from top to bottom A. Pavo cristatus male B. Pavo muticus juvenile female C. Afropavo congensis adult male

    Prerequisite systematics digression.

    Please visit each hyper link (in blue) and try to keep in mind what the zoo nutrition was discussing in regards to the digestive morphology of different, even closely related or ecologically related species.

    A. Peafowl are no more related to Pheasants and Grouse (which form their own monophyletic clade )
    Cats are related to Dogs and Bears ( dogs and bears form yet another monophyletic clade)

    Gazelle are related to Sheep and Goats (sheep and goats form their own monophyletic clade.)

    In this analogy, the outlying group in each of these respective clusters, the Peafowl, the Cats, the Gazelle are unique evolutionary novelties unto themselves.
    These "third wheels" are similar to the larger cluster we've weighted them with here, yes, but evolutionarily speaking not as close one might assume at first glance.


    A similar analogy is the relationship of Lemurs to Monkeys and Apes. This cute little fella is a Lemur. Lemurs are not monkeys nor are the apes. There is a considerable distinction between New World Monkeys from Old World Monkeys. They look alike and share a common ancestor but are only distantly related. Old World Monkeys are a bit closer to Apes but quite distinctive evolutionarily from Apes.

    Lemurs are the outgroup, least related to the Anthropoid (Monkey and Ape) lineage.
    The Lemur is the closest living fascimile of the common ancestor of all Primates.
    Our Peafowl is the Lemur. The Coturnix is the New World Monkey. The Pheasant is the Old World Monkey and the Ape is the Grouse.

    Peafowl are the most primitive of the cluster. Pheasants are recently derived from a proto-pavo ancestor similar to the Monal. Grouses are the most recently derived and the most highly evolved in the sense that they have radiated the furthest from their ancestor's habitats and transformed accordingly- morphologically, behaviorally and biogeographically.

    The Grouse is the least like proto-pavo.
    Lemurs, like Peafowl exhibit highly unusual traits that make them perfectly adapted to unusual habitats.

    But Peafowl and Lemurs are primitive. In spite of their fascinating behaviors and appearance that might make them seem like brand new fancy creations, they are actually living fossils. They've been around long enough to have seen cataclysmic periods in the history of planet- several of them. And yet they keep holding on in environments not entirely different from that of the ancestors. The more evolutionarily advanced lineages like Coturnix and Grouse are the most bird like and the least like dinosaur-like birds skulking about in primeval jungle.

    Just bear with me please-

    Quote: For more reading from this specific paper: Estimation of divergence times for major lineages of
    galliform birds: Evidence from complete mitochondrial genome sequences

    Primitive Cracids similar to these Guans

    diverged from Megapode-like ancestors sometime during the Paleocene ~60 Million Years Ago.
    The Megapodes survived the Extinction Event that marked the end of the era of the dinosaurs.

    This makes the Gallomorphae amongst the most ancient of all living birds.

    Cracids are semi-arboreal and largely vegetarian. They do take frogs and insects and insect larvae in fallen fruit but their diets are specialized around vegetation.
    It should be noted that the ancestral stock from which the Cracids are derived, the Megapodes, are omnivorous, taking many small animals and mollusks.
    We can envision a split of a largely terrestrial Megapode lineage that continues along in an omnivorous life style with semi- arboreal Cracids emerging in the flooded forests of South America with a largely vegetarian diet. From this lineage evolves the Polyandrous Ptilopachus, and their sister lineage the New World Quail which are also largely vegetarian.

    -Again- Craciformes are the basal branch from which New World Quail and Ptilopachus emerged on a separate branch ~ 60 Million Years Ago.

    Cracids and New World Quail are strictly monogamous and males participate in nesting and chick rearing.
    The juveniles have delayed maturity and extended relationships with both parents.
    Cracids are arboreal nesters. They have small clutch sizes and lengthy incubation periods.
    Cracids hatch with rudimentary wing and tail feathers and are capable of flapping flight and perching within hours of birth.
    Some species may engage in helper systems where non-breeding individuals participate in chick rearing.

    Ptilopachus is more similar to Megapodes in that males are responsible for tending to eggs. They are unlike Megapodes in that the male actually incubates the eggs and rears the chicks. Ptilopachus also incorporates a helper system with juvenile males remaining within the colony indefinitely and females dispersing.

    Moving ahead,

    During the Eocene Epoch ~ 50 Million Years Ago, the ancestral lineage that gave rise to the rest of the Galliformes emerges from the same branch that gave rise to the New World Quail and Ptilopachus.
    One such lineage included a primitive Guineafowl called TELECREX and related forms that gave rise to the Peacock-Pheasants, Roul Roul and Coturnix lineages.
    1. Roul Roul (split further into Hill Partridges during Oligocene)
    Polyandrous reproductive strategy limited to multiple males building nesting igloos for females. These igloos are attended to year round like Megapodes attend to their mounds year round. Chicks remain with their parents indefinitely.
    2. Peacock-Pheasants ( split into Haematortyx and Galloperdix during Oligocene)
    Polynadrous reproductive strategy limited to multiple males guarding over one nesting/foraging territory. Non-breeding males participate in chick rearing. Female offspring disperse.
    3. Coturnix (split into Chukar and Francolin/Junglefowl subfamilies during Oligocene)
    Polygamous with no mating bond.
    Telecrex was evidently very nearly identical osteologically with the Black Guineafowl of Central Africa. We don't know what it looked like phenotypically but it may well have resembled the Crested Argus or Peacock Pheasant more than the Black Guineafowl ( will touch on that later as it relates to energy requirements of "ornate" plumage.)
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2012
    2 people like this.
  3. Doctor T

    Doctor T Out Of The Brooder

    May 15, 2011
    Thanks for starting this thread!

    I'm pretty new to peafowl, but being a MD, and having raised pure breed cattle in the past, I'm quite sure that nutrition is extremely important, vastly undervalued, under read, and poorly practiced! I look forward to a great discussion!
  4. MinxFox

    MinxFox Overrun With Chickens

    Sep 16, 2010
    Pensacola, FL
    One thing that helps is to observe free-range peafowl. Last year I learned a lot from a peachick I hand raised and allowed to free-range for a few hours each day with supervision. I now have a better understanding of basic weeds that grow in the yard that can be given to the peafowl as part of their meal. There are many leafy weeds that peafowl will go crazy over that most people would be happy to dig up in their yard. For example there is a native plant around here that is a sword plant. It is a weed with sword like shaped leaves and people can eat it (it doesn't taste that bad) and peafowl love it too. Also peafowl like to eat rabbit tobacco leaves, which is another plant that seems to pop up all over the yard. These plants are present even during the winter.

    Leaving those fallen leaves in the peafowl pen can help create an area for bugs to hide. Since in the wild peafowl do a lot of foraging this allows your peafowl to get some exercise and also get some good nutrition from eating bugs. In the winter since most things are dead and the bugs are just about non existent in the pen it is important to make up for the nutrition gap. In the winter we try to feed the peafowl more lettuce and other greens more than we do in the summer. I tried giving them some dried meal worms and they ate them up like crazy so if you haven't tried feeding your peafowl meal worms I would try it. It is like candy for them. I don't feed mine much corn in the winter, but it doesn't really get cold here like it does more in the Northern states so the climate is an important factor when thinking about how to feed your birds in different seasons.

    I remember job shadowing at a wildlife rehab center and I had to feed the birds of prey. I had to take ground meat and make it in balls of a certain weight and each kind of bird had a different amount of meat it could have. Some got more some got less depending on their size, etc. That was really interesting seeing how there is a whole process behind the feeding. The keepers don't just grab a bunch of meat and throw it in the pen they carefully measure it out according to what they are feeding.

    I think this topic will be very interesting and hopefully will give us all a better idea of bird requirements. [​IMG]
    1 person likes this.
  5. Resolution

    Resolution Chillin' With My Peeps

    According to the fossil record, Telecrex had a large range that included a wide swath of a region that basically bridged Southern Europe with South East Asia. There was no Meditteranean Sea, no Sahara Desert, no Himalayas. India was still a massive island. Telecrex radiated into present day Mongolia, into present day Indonesia and Southern Asia all that time ago.


    Sister lineage of Telecrex, a primitive Peafowl similar in every respect to the living genus Agelastes, ( fascinating video link) radiates outward into lineages that will give rise to the next major branching of Galliform evolutionary history.

    This is ~ what Earth looked like during the Oligocene Epoch
    ~ 33 MYA when the next basal Galliformes emerge.

    Principle Amongst these:

    3. Peafowl
    4. Chukar and allies (split further into Coturnix during the Oligocene)
    a. Francolins ( split further into Junglefowl and Bamboo Partridge during the Miocene)
    5. Blood Pheasants (split futher into Pheasants during the Miocene.)
    6. Tetraophasis (split further into Tragopans, Monals, Snow Partridge, Turkeys and Grouses during the Miocene)

    Peafowl are one of the most basal Galliform lineages.
    There are two subfamilies and four genera of Peafowl within the family Pavoninidae:

    The two major peafowl subfamilies Argusininae and Pavoninae split from one another during the end of the Oligocene ~ 20 Million Years Ago.

    Subfamily Argusininae:

    RHEINARDIA: Crested Argus
    Malaysian Crested Argus Rheinardia nigrescens
    Annamese Crested Argus Rheinardia ocellata


    ARGUSIANUS: Great Argus
    Bornean Great Argus Argusianus greyi
    Malaysian Great Argus Argusianus argus consisting of two subspecies.



    Subfamily Pavoninae:
    Pavo: True Peafowl
    Afropavo: African Peafowl
    At some point in time during the Miocene Epoch, Afropavo and Pavo split from one another.
    Rheinardia and Argusianus had split from one another a bit earlier on. Please note the absence of the Himalayas at this period.

    AFROPAVO: Congo Peafowl Afropavo congensis Monotypic species.



    PAVO: True Peafowl
    European Peafowl Pavo bravardi
    Mediterranean Peafowl Pavo aesculapii
    Afar Peafowl Pavo afarensis
    Northern Yunnan Dragonbird Pavo antiquus consisting of two possibly three subspecies
    Annamensis Peafowl Pavo annamensis consisting of three- four subspecies and a number of geographic forms.
    Cardamom Mountain Dragonbird Pavo bokorensis consisting of two distinct subspecies.
    Arakan Dragonbird Pavo arakansis
    Burmese Peafowl Pavo spicifer consisting of three subspecies and a number of geographic forms.
    Javanese Peafowl Pavo javanensis consisting of two subspecies.
    Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus consisting of two distinct subspecies.
    Imperator Peafowl Pavo imperator consisting of three subspecies and a number of geographic forms.

    It was during the Pliocene Epoch ~ 4 Million Years Ago that Malaysian Crested Argus split from the Annamese Great Argus; Northern Dragonbird Pavo antiquus, split from the Annamensis Peafowl. Fossil Pavo peafowl species were native to Southern Europe, the Balkans, Eastern Africa, and Yunnan China, Hainan China and Java during the Pliocene. There were no Indian Peafowl in existence as of yet. A species very similar to Imperator inhabited India. Fossil species were highly similar to Green Peafowl but larger in size. it should also be noted that Congo Peafowl had a much larger range that included South Africa and were already well-differentiated from Pavo during the Miocene. A fossil Congo Peafowl species inhabited Southern Africa well into the Pleistocene.

    Later, ~ 3 Million Years Ago the Bornean Great Argus split from the Malaysian Great Argus;
    Indian, Imperator, Spicifer and Javanese Peafowl diverged from antiquus and annamensis lineages.

    The diversification of the different Peafowl lineages can be directly tied with the Successive Births of the Himalayan Mountains.


    With the Himalayas Mountains came the Ice Ages and it is during the Pleistocene (Ice Ages) that most Pheasant and Grouse genera diversified into distinct species. For example, the great Lophura complex split from the Crested Firebacks into Silver, Kalij and Swinhoe's lineages, which in turn split further into all the wonderful diversity of each respective superspecies. During the end of this era as the ice sheets that locked up so much of the earth's surface melted, major river systems and inland seas were either born or greatly expanded. This is when the Sri Lanka Peafowl split from the Indian and when subspecies of the various different Green Peafowl forms diversified. This is when the Cardamom Mountain Range peafowl and the Lewis's Black Silver Pheasant became isolated from the Annamese Peafowl and the Bolavan Plateau Black Silver Pheasant. Subsequently, about 12,000 yers ago, the Jones's Silver Pheasant radiated northwards while the Imperator peafowl expanded its range across the Thailand Plain.

    Recap on the evolutionary origins of the Peafowl:

    Telecrex/Phasidus is more terrestrial than Cracids and like the Megapodes an omnivore, however, it was more highly dependent upon small animals, especially invertebrates.

    Guineafowl (in nature) are strictly monogamous with males participating in nest defense and chick rearing. The juveniles have delayed maturity and extended relationships with both parents.

    Guineafowl are, like Megapodes, terrestrial nesters. They have small medium to large clutch sizes and lengthy incubation periods.

    Primitive Guineafowl of the Phasidus/Agelastes/Acryllium and Guttera lineages hatch with rudimentary wing and tail feathers and are capable of flapping flight and perching within hours of birth.

    Some species may engage in helper systems where non-breeding individuals participate in chick rearing.
    Peafowl are more terrestrial than Cracids and less terrestrial than Guineafowl being largely arboreal during the wet season. Like the Megapodes and Guineafowl, Peafowl are omnivorous. They are highly dependent upon small animals, especially amphibians, small reptiles and invertebrates. Like the Megapodes, Cracids and Guineafowl, fruit, seeds, shoots, leaves and flowers consist of a considerable part of the diet, especially seasonally, though less so in the deep forest adapted Congo Peafowl and Argus genera, which readily take decaying fruit but avoid most vegetation.

    Most Peafowl (in nature) are strictly monogamous with males participating in nest defense and chick rearing. The juveniles have delayed maturity and extended relationships with both parents. What may appear to be harems are generally juvenile and subadult offspring in close association with their parents.

    Peafowl are somewhat terrestrial nesters but will nest off the ground if appropriate sites are discovered. They have small to medium clutch sizes and lengthy incubation periods.

    Peafowl hatch with rudimentary wing and tail feathers and are capable of flapping flight and perching within hours of birth.

    Some species may engage in helper systems where non-breeding individuals participate in chick rearing.

    Like Megapodes, Cracids and Guineafowl, Peafowl are capable of sustained flight over fairly substantial distances when warranted. They are less capable flyers than Megapodes about equal with Cracids.

    With the Crested Argus we probably see a facsimile of the morphology and plumage development of the earliest Gallomorphs in some subtropical regions where reptiles are particularly diverse and numerous. So while Peafowl are derived of the lineage that gave rise to Cracids and Guineafowl, and consequently younger, they may well retain the original body plan and behaviors of the ancestral stock from which Cracids and Guineafowl evolved.

    Peafowl are probably the most predatory of these basal Galliformes taking more small animals than either Guineafowl of Megapodes.

    Recap: Peafowl are derived of an ancient lineage that begins at some point before the Eocene epoch MYA. They retain characteristics of the most primitive families of Galliformes. These include general body plan including elongated bodies, large heavy wings and tails and long necks as opposed to the corpulent bodies, short rounded wings and truncated tails of pheasants and grouse. They are less adapted for terrestrial life than Guineafowl and more so than Cracids.

    The most obvious trait that distinguishes Peafowl from these other important Galliform lineages is their amazing plumage and astonishing display behaviors, their large vocal repertoires and mimetic stridulation of specialised feather quills.

    When we generalise about the peafowl as a conservative lineage - a monophyletic family - about their nutritional requirements we cannot take the exceedingly familiar ( and misunderstood) Indian Peafowl as the quintessential example of all other taxa and largely because it is recently derived from a more primitive ancestor itself. The Indian Peafowl is actually the exception amongst other forms of peafowl on a number of points both ecologically and nutritionally.

    We are obliged to look at all the peafowl species and generalise with data that includes the highly evolved Indian Peafowl as well as the living fossil that is the Crested Argus. As there are actually two distinct species of Crested Argus, data on dietary requirements are already slanted in the favor of those two comparatively primeval peafowl.

    It should be obvious that even the Indian Peafowl, the most highly evolved of the peafowl, goes through growth phases that return it to its primitive taproot. In nature, Pavo cristatus goes to nesting and rearing its chicks during the brief wet monsoon.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
    1 person likes this.
  6. bdfive

    bdfive Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 11, 2010
    South of Blanco, TX
    Resolution, I just can't say enough to you in thanks for all you share with us. These pictures are absolutely amazing.

    I want to report my peafowl are now eating the UltraKibble readily without it being moistened. They are preferring it to the game-bird ration. Thanks also for the contact info to order it from Tractor Supply. I've forwarded it to a few people already.

    Regarding the primate photos. Not sure what it is but compared your observation to pictures on internet and you may be right. I'm hoping Wildlife Rescue finds it before a cougar does.

    SO, can these photos be bought somewhere? If so are they quality prints? I have a friend that has just bought some Green peafowl. Not only would I like to have a few hanging in my home but would enjoy giving him a couple as a gift.
  7. Resolution

    Resolution Chillin' With My Peeps

    BD5, thanks for taking the time to read all this laborious stuff. It's so important that we have a collective with much of the same knowledge base- that base with a foundation of academic sources to better collaborate with the knowledge base of the peafowl aviculturist community. An integration of information contributed by this generation of hobbyists could buttress the efforts of organizations like the APWS and UPA. It's imperative that we help get aviculturists off the endangered list.

    I don't think you have to worry about that monkey one bit. It's adapted to life with plenty of cats, small medium and big after it. I'm happy to hear your birds are eating well. That said, I'm promising not to so much as mention that stuff on this thread.

    These photographs don't belong to me. They were taken by preeminent nature photographer Christoph Keller. I'm certain he'd love to hear from you and as he is a professional photographer you can be assured he'll produce a print for you. Generally they send you a cd with high resolution photograph or a link to the image and you go to a printer and they'll produce it for you there. Another German photographer/ naturalist is Friedrich Esser. Fritz Esser has dedicated his life to Green Peafowl and really appreciates hearing from peafowl lovers and also has great website to visit. I learn a lot from their photo-documentation of Green Peafowls.

    I posted these last photos in order to begin a discussion on the energy requirements of adult male peafowl.

    In the near future, I'll attempt to describe what I've previously described (badly) as hovering and vertical deportment displays. These highly stereotypical deportment behaviors are present in each of the four peafowl genera. They take clearly divergent pathways with each respective genus and even between closely related species.

    .. failed to thank Franky and Danni for sleuthing and finding these photos!
    and with that Franky and Danni can you please uncover every photo you can of Rheinardia???
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2012
  8. Hens and Roos

    Hens and Roos Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 6, 2009
    Cottage Grove, WI
    very cool pictures, thanks for sharing them! I am in the process of reading the information links that you have shared as well and the information is interesting. Looking forward to reading more. Thanks for putting this thread together.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2012
  9. Resolution

    Resolution Chillin' With My Peeps

    Last edited: Mar 6, 2012
  10. bdfive

    bdfive Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 11, 2010
    South of Blanco, TX
    So sad about the White Tiger. Been so busy...we've put in underground electric and water back to the peafowl aviary but not finished yet. I keep coming back and reading more trying to absorb as much as I can regarding how to best take care of my peafowl. I'm in awe enjoying all these wonderful photos. I'm feeling somewhat guilty having these gorgeous birds in captivity. Even ashamed. It's not the way they were meant to live. I honestly believe I'd release them to a free life but would they know how to survive in the wilderness. I have a friend with 1,800 acres that has lost most of her peafowl to the elements. Others have left and are now ranging in a subdivision of homes on acreage perhaps due to being fed by residents. How many peachicks will be sold in 2012 only to perish within a year. I'm not sure what to do. I love the babies but can't keep anymore and it's difficult to find good homes. I guess we and the peafowl will be eating lots of eggs this summer. Can you imagine consuming a 100% Green fertile Pea Egg, LOL!!! It's said the "Green" can't be free ranged, they'll leave but I've read a few have been successful. What's the secret of keeping them home? My 75% stay but wander off to neighboring properties more so then the IB. They will also fly out of a huge old growth Live Oak tree from the top limbs and sail right over all the trees and fences having to be retrieved with treats and patience. We've even put in gates between us and our neighbors so I don't have to dig and crawl under ranch fences anymore, haha!!! The IB will fly to lower limbs until they're nearer to the ground therefore landing in the yard or driveway. SORRY, I'm rambling!


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