First we like to clear up a misconception. Peacock is commonly used to describe both male and female peafowl. But actually the peacock is the male peafowl and the peahen is the female peafowl.
The Indian peafowl, Pavo cristatus, has two fellow species; the Green peafowl, Pavo muticus, and the Congo peafowl, Afropavo congolensis. Within the species there is a great variety of peafowl, e.g. the beautiful white peafowl which is mutated from the Indian peafowl. They all are family of the pheasant.
Besides a wild inhabitant of the Garden the Indian peafowl is found in the wild throughout India and its close surroundings. It is domesticated throughout the rest of the world for many centuries, it is even said that it is the first domesticated bird. The Indian peafowl can be found in dry semi-desert grasslands, scrub and deciduous forests. It forages on the ground and nests on the ground but roosts on top of trees. It eats mainly seeds, but also some insects, fruits and reptiles.
When people think of the peafowl they usually think of the peacock with its beautiful iridescent coloured "tail", which is spread out or fanned out to attract the peahen. The feathers of the Indian peacock have a greenish blue (peacock blue) appearance with an "eye" on each feather. A single peacock owns 150 of these beautiful feathers! Per species and individual the colors may differ. In fact this "tail" is not the real tail but the highly elongated upper tail coverts. The peacock uses his actual tail, which has brown feathers just like the peahen, to support his upper tail coverts. The peahen lacks this tail coverts. The female plumage is a mixture of dull green, grey and iridescent blue, with the greenish-grey predominating. Peahens can be distinguished from males in the non-breeding season by the green colour of the neck as opposed to the blue on the males. Both males and females have those funny looking crests or crowns on their heads, although the males crests are brighter.
A male is fully mature at three years old. However, all peafowl may begin to mate at two years. Mating season starts in the early spring and ends in the early autumn. Throughout this time the peacock spreads and moves his "tail" up and down, fanning, and makes a loud mating call. Although normally quiet, the peafowl becomes quite loud during the mating season. The males call is like a cats "meow", while the female's call sounds similar to a dog's "arf" bark. The peafowl is considered polygynous and will have a peahen harem with up to 5 peahens. However its fellow species, the Green peafowl, can be monogamous. Usually at least one mature bird is needed to produce fertile eggs. If mating has taken place the peahens lay a clutch of 4 to 12 eggs which take 28 days to hatch. The peachicks are born fully feathered and are able to fly after two weeks. Though the peafowl needs a 5 metre "runway" to have lift off. Chicks of Indian Peafowl are sometimes carried on the backs of the parent birds as they fly into the security of a tree to roost. After mating season the peacocks molt their tailfeathers and begin to regrow them.
Peacocks are considered sacred in India, especially in the north where its feathers may be burnt to ward off disease, and even to cure snakebite.
It is said that at the time of Creation of the universe, when the primordial poison was churned out of the Sea of Milk and transmuted into the amrita (nectar of immortality), it was a peacock that absorbed the negative effects. Thus the bird is thought of as a protector, though its flesh is consequently considered to be poisonous. Since a potentially deadly emotion such as anger is depicted as a serpent, and the peacock is immune, the peacock also symbolises victory over poisonous tendencies in sentient beings.
Besides the many symbolic aspects in India the peacock has many symbolic meanings in other cultures. Click here to find more about peacock symbolism.
We feel it as an honour to have the presence of such a magnificent bird in the Garden.
Wikipedia (info, pictures)