The Peacock, scientifically known as the species in the genus Pavo, are magnificent birds that belong to the Peafowl family Phasianidae. With three known species, these birds are renowned for their vibrant and iridescent tail feathers. They are often associated with royalty and elegance due to their vibrant and iridescent tail feathers, and across the world, they’ve inspired myths, legends, and admiration.
But beyond their beauty, they do look a bit bulky, heavy and awkward. They look like they may struggle to take to the skies, which leads to the lingering question – can peacocks fly? Well let’s take a look.
Peacocks are sizable birds, with their weight and wingspan varying depending on the species. Their most distinctive feature is their long and attractive tail feathers, or ‘train’ as it is sometimes called. This train, especially prominent in males, is used for incredible courtship displays, as well as displays of dominance or a reaction to threat. They can account for up to 60% of their total body length.
You may see the term peafowl instead of peacock, both are correct, just different names for the same birds. Technically all peacock are peafowl.
Differences Between Species:
Indian Blue Peafowl (Pavo cristatus):
- Native Location: Indian Peafowl are native to India and Sri Lanka
- Wingspan: Approximately 4-5 feet.
- Size: Males can be about 90-110 cm in length (excluding the tail) with a train that can be over 150 cm long. Females are slightly smaller.
- Weight: Males typically weigh between 4-6 kg, while females are lighter, weighing between 2.75-4 kg.
- Colour and Plumage: Males have a bright blue neck and chest with a spectacular train adorned with eye-spots. The train is primarily used for courtship displays. Females, or peahens, are mostly brown with a white belly and lack the long train.
Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus):
- Native Location: Tropical Forests in Southeast Asia and Indochina
- Wingspan: Approximately 4.5-5.5 feet.
- Size: Males can be about 100-120 cm in length with a train that can be over 160 cm long. Females are slightly smaller.
- Weight: Males weigh between 4-5 kg, and females weigh between 3-4 kg.
- Colour and Plumage: Males possess a more opulent train with eye-spots and golden-green feathers. Their body showcases a mix of green and bronze. Females are more muted in color, with green and brown feathers and lack the long train.
Congo Peafowl (Afropavo congensis):
- Native Location: Rainforests of Democratic Republic of Congo
- Wingspan: Approximately 2-3 feet.
- Size: Both males and females are smaller compared to the other two species, with lengths of about 60-70 cm.
- Weight: Both males and females weigh between 1.2-1.5 kg.
- Colour and Plumage: Males have a mix of blue and green plumage with a shorter tail that lacks the classic eye-spots. Females are reddish-brown
What about White Peacocks?
A white peacock is not a species of it’s own. Rather, it is an Indian peacock that has a genetic condition called leucism. They are quite rare, but an awesome sight to see, with their angelic white plumage they can be a beauty to behold.
Can Peacocks Fly?
Absolutely! Peacocks are capable of flight. Are they good at flying? No, not really. Their flights are typically short bursts, often initiated to evade predators, cross barriers, or find a safe spot to roost during night time.
They are not majestic flyers, like birds of prey. They can’t soar high and glide with grace and they only spend a very small percentage of their time in the air. They look far more comfortable on the ground, which is no surprise, as this is where most of their food is and where they spend the vast majority of their time.
How Do Peacocks Fly?
Peacocks have a unique flight pattern. Despite the weight of their long tails, they can launch themselves almost vertically into the air, often to find cover in the trees. Once airborne, they display surprising agility, navigating through obstacles with their fan-shaped tails and straightened necks. Their flights are characterized by strong and loud wing beats, and don’t last for very long.
In order to make it off the ground, they need to build up speed on the ground running, then flap their wings to build up momentum. If launching off the ground, they can’t fly very far or high. If launching from higher up, like the branch of a tree, they can travel further but still, very limited.
The most common reason for a peacock to take flight, is to find a suitable spot for roosting in the canopy and cover of a tree.
Which Species Of Peacock Can Fly The Best?
In comparison to the Indian Blue Peacock, the Green Peacock is the best flyer. It has longer wings and it’s tail isn’t as heavy as the Indian Blue. So they can fly further and higher in general than their Indian cousins. However, the best flyer may well turn out to be the Congo Peacock.
This species is the least well documented, and flight patterns are yet to be well observed and detailed. It is thought that due to its different build, that it is a stronger flyer than the others. However, it is still a foraging bird, with ground-based habits and it is unlikely that there will be much variance in it’s abilities in the sky.
When Do Peacocks First Learn To Fly?
Peachicks can technically start flying when they’re just a few days old. By around 3 days old, their flight feathers begin to emerge, allowing them the capability to fly.
However, even though they have the physical capability, peachicks often don’t venture into flying immediately. It can take a lot of practice and lots of parental encouragement for them to become competent. In most observations, training begins around the 2-3 month mark.
Premature attempts at flight can result in injury or make them easy targets for predators. As they grow and gain more strength and confidence, their flight skills improve.
How Far And How High Can Peacocks Fly?
While peacocks prefer to stay grounded, when they do fly, it’s usually for short distances, typically less than 150 meters, and usually for only a fraction of that – 20 – 50 meters at most. Their daily routine involves walking and foraging, covering between 3 and 4 kilometres on foot. They will most commonly take flight in the evening to find a good perch to roost in the trees.
Some accounts have these birds reaching altitudes of around 8 meters, but in one account from the Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka, observations show these birds flying at heights up to 15 meters. Though not confirmed, it’s likely that this would be from peacocks launching from a high perch.
How Fast Can Peacocks Fly?
These majestic birds can achieve flight speeds of approximately 10-12mph (16-19km/h), which, considering their size and the weight of their train, is quite impressive. Green Peacocks can generally reach slightly greater speeds than the Indian Blue, due to their larger, more powerful wingspan.
Why Are Peacocks Such Poor Flyers?
The main reasons for the poor flight of the peacock, is their shape and weight, particularly in their ornate tails. While these are essential for magnificent breeding displays they add significant weight to their bodies. On top of that, they are quite portly birds, with a physique that isn’t the most conducive for prolonged flight.
Like chickens, and very closely related to pheasants, these are ground feeding foraging birds. They are build mostly for a life on the ground, with strong legs and bodies. They also mostly live in dense forests or wooded areas, and they’ve evolved to use foliage for protection, reducing the need for extended flights.
Why Are Some Peacocks Unable To Fly At All?
Domestication plays a role here. Many domesticated peacocks have their wings clipped to prevent them from flying away. This clipping involves removing some of their flight feathers preventing the bird from gaining as much altitude or distance in flight. It’s often done to prevent the peacocks from escaping their domestic home.
However, despite their imposed limits, even these birds showcase an impressive ability to jump heights of up to 8 feet.
Are Peacocks Classed As Flightless Birds?
No, peacocks are not classified as flightless. Their flight might be limited, but when the situation demands, they can and do fly.
Why Are Some Birds Flightless And What Does This Mean?
Evolution has led some birds, such as the ostrich and the emu down the flightless path. Factors like the absence of predators, changes in habitat, or the need for other survival skills can influence this. For peacocks, their limited flight is a balance between the evolutionary advantages of their ornate tail and the occasional need for flight.
5 Fun Peacock Facts For Kids
- Baby peacocks, known as peachicks, can start flying when they’re just a few days old, but it usually takes lots of practice and effort before they master the skill.
- Both male and female peacocks share similar flying abilities, but males have a more vibrant display.
- While some domestic peacocks can’t fly for one reason or another, they are capable of jumping up to 8 feet high with an assist from their wings!
- Despite their aerial limitations, peacocks love to sleep in tall trees, safe from ground predators.
- Peacocks are swift runners and can quickly dash to safety when threatened.