Dancing White Peacocks - Why do Peacocks Dance?

#1 Apr 29th, 2009, 16:00
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On visits to the Bombay zoo in the last month, I was privileged to witness the rare display put on by a pair of dancing white peacocks - see http://www.travelpod.com/travelblogp.../YES/tpod.html

Does anyone know why peacocks dance?

According to a brief and not necessarily reliable internet search, it appears to be a courtship dance.

Some sites claim that this ritual takes place just before the rains, which is obviously not the case with these two.

For anyone who is in Mumbai and has the interest, take a look at these two at the Byculla zoo, I'm sure they are still at it!
















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#2 Apr 29th, 2009, 16:08
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#2
I've always understood it to be a courtship dance, and I think that most of the major bird displays are --- or territorial.

My wife says that they dance when it rains: but I think that TN residents project their delight at rain on everything !

We watched the gentleman in my avatar dance for over half an hour, at Newquay zoo in UK; I have lots of photos of him, including some close-up feather details. I'm convinced that the peacock is the world's most magnificent bird. If it was as rare as some, people would launch expeditions just to catch a glimpse of it!

Chennai zoo had a new family of baby white peafowl two or three years ago.
#3 Apr 29th, 2009, 16:10
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#3
It is the courtship dance.
The peacock breeding season is from April to September.
This is what I found on wikipedia
Peafowl are most notable for the male's extravagant display feathers which, despite actually growing from their back, are known as a 'tail' or train. This train is in reality not the tail but the enormously elongated upper tail coverts. The tail itself is brown and short as in the peahen. The colours result from the micro-structure of the feathers and the resulting optical phenomena.[1] The ornate train is believed to be the result of female sexual selection as males raised the feathers into a fan and quiver it as part of courtship display. Many studies have suggested that the quality of train is an honest signal of the condition of males and that peahens select males on the basis of their plumage. More recent studies however, suggest that other cues may be involved in mate selection by peahens.
#4 Apr 29th, 2009, 16:13
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#4
Unfortunately I am not able to view pictures; probably the System Admin may have blocked the access.

The peacocks' dancing ritual is a good omen for an early monsoon in Mumbai in the backdrop of extremely sultry weather with humidity touching as high as 90% 2-3 days' back.

Though I will be interested in knowing the real reasons for Peacock's dancing rituals.

Sadanand
#5 Apr 29th, 2009, 16:44
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#5
Yes ! It's a mating ritual......
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#6 Apr 29th, 2009, 19:07
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If anyone has yesterday's The Hindu --- Young World supplement (which you might not have looked at on account of not being young (), please check the centre pages. There is a magnificent peacock picture there.
#7 Apr 30th, 2009, 00:28
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The peacock's tail is one of the classic examples used by biologist Amotz Zahavi to argue for his influential Handicap Principle -- the idea that for signals to be reliable, they must be costly to the signaler. You carry around fancy plumage only if you can afford to develop it, and carry it around despite the risk it brings from predators.

There is some supporting work showing that peacocks with "good" feathers also have better immune systems. Zahavi doesn't talk about the dance (generally considered to be a mating dance), but you could think of it as adding to the handicap.

In most parts of India, the dance is considered to signal the rains. If rain somehow facilitates their egg-laying and chick-raising, peacocks may mate around the beginning of monsoon, and may have developed mechanisms to detect the onset of monsoon. But no one seems to have looked at this. Sounds like a good research question for a behavioral/evolutionary biology Ph.D.!
#8 Apr 30th, 2009, 10:12
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#8
Interesting and thanks for everyone's input.

Nick, I thought your peacock had escaped and fallen into a bucket of bleach, then relocated to the "conducive" surroundings of the Bombay zoo!

Cant find the peacock picture in Young World online - http://www.hindu.com/yw/2009/04/28/chenindx.htm

Sadanand, you can see the sequence on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/37455733@N07/

The way the peahen follows the male around, it certainly seems to be a courtship ritual.

For some reason, even though I posted the image sequence in this thread, they do not show up, but the travelpod link works.

Let us hope it means we will get a good monsoon this year.

Incidentally about white peacocks, I have no knowledge, but some info from the net suggests they are a separate species to the blue whereas other info suggests they are albino. Another member RWeHaving Fun Yet who has kindly been identifying all the bird pics here at IM, also feels the whites are albinos.
#9 Apr 30th, 2009, 13:24
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Spotting a White Peacock is rare, outside of the a zoo. But I have been lucky enough to see one in natural habitat, at that time I did not realise how important it was, but I have never seen it since.

Also the area I live in, its very common for us to spot peacocks and we wake up to their sound in morning. Truly a delightful experience in this urban jungle.
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#10 Apr 30th, 2009, 13:52
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I saw a peacock (outside of a zoo) for the first time when I went to Rajasthan in 1997. My dad was posted near behror(almost haryana-rajasthan border)and I and my mom went vacationing there.

My dad took me to a nearby village early in the morning the day after we arrived. I was absolutely astounded to see peacocks everywhere. I saw atleast 7-8 peacocks. I was delirious with joy when I saw one of them jump/fly form one tree to another.

The villagers were very ammused to see me running around taking pictures. Peacocks are no special thing to them. I was the novelty and soon gathered a following of 7-8 kids trying to help me by pointing out more peacocks.
#11 Apr 30th, 2009, 14:07
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If the peacock was albino then patches of dark(colour) would be observable.

My guess is it is a species like white tiger and the ubiquitous white elephant!
#12 Apr 30th, 2009, 14:10
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#12
Two of the campuses that I have studied at had lot of blue peacocks and hens. And what a racket they make. But yes, the novelty wears off after a time if you see them day in and day out. Only I had no camera then with me then, so no pictures of them dancing (Sheesh so difficult to believe that I actually live without a camera at my disposal)

It is only when I moved out I started missing them again. One of my fondest memory is of my nephew (then 7 or 8) running after a peacock (when he saw it for the first time) with both arms outstretched till the peacock flew up a tree.
#13 Apr 30th, 2009, 15:07
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#13
Yes, I believe they are very commonly seen in North India, in fact I now remember seeing peacocks flying into somebody's garden in Delhi, that was years ago. No such luck here in Mumbai.

About 6 years ago, I visited a small rural village called Morachi Chincholi [literally Peacocks Tamarind Grove in Marathi] which is somewhat off the Pune-Ahmednagar highway. Peacocks abound here and are protected by the locals who worship them as incarnations of Lord Vishnu. I remember they were all over the place, in the fields, in trees, on top of the thatched roofs, just everywhere - but they moved away when we went close. I read last year in the papers, that several peacocks there succumbed to some disease. Pity.
#14 Apr 30th, 2009, 15:39
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#14
I was at Chennai Zoo only a few weeks ago, and I recall that they say that the white peafowl is an albino. Strange they manage to breed a whole colony of them, though; one would expect other genetics to show through?
#15 May 1st, 2009, 02:23
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#15
You can see lots of peacocks on the train route to Rameshwaram.

I was surprised to find a peacock island near Berlin.
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