Why Do Peacocks Spread Their Feathers – Top Reasons

Peafowl is a family of birds with beautiful feathers. Male members of this family are known as peacocks, and the female members are known as peahens.

Generally, peafowls are used as ornamental birds for display purposes. The beautiful feathers of peacocks are very enchanting to people.

Why Do Peacocks Spread Their Feathers

Interestingly, the peacocks spread their feathers for certain special rituals that are common among their family. The size and the colors of their plumage play a very significant role in performing the rituals.

In this brief guide, you’ll come across all the compelling reasons and stories behind why peacocks spread their feathers.

Peacocks Spread Their Feathers For Courtship

Peacocks spread their feathers for the ritual of mating to attract the peahens. Peacocks usually produce particular kinds of sounds with the help of their feathers. They use different parts of their plumage to emit sounds to signal the peahens. The mating season of this population ranges from march to April.

If a peacock wants to mate, the sound produced will be different from the sound produced for everyday communicating purposes. Peacocks are clever enough to produce calls for attracting peahens and revealing that they are sexually more active than others.

Peahens have a unique sensing ability in their crests. It has been researched that the vibrations created by the tail of a peacock can be sensed by the crest of peahens. In this way, they can communicate to decide whether they want to mate or not.

How Do Peacocks Produce These Mating Calls?

Research conducted by Roslyn Dakin and his teammates in 2016, shed light on the biomechanics of peacock feathers. They had researched how peacock’s feathers generate sounds of different frequencies to communicate with peahens.

They used different techniques for their research and had done fieldwork as well as lab work. They had studied the morphology of peacock’s feathers. Their research aimed to shed light on how the vibrations created by peacock’s plumage.

They had studied that peacocks train their feathers for performing the ritual of courtship. They usually perform this action while the peahens are around. Peacocks will only try to impress those peahens which they want to mate with.

If the peahens get attracted by this visual attention, then they will become involved in copulation.

Mechanical Properties And Morphology Of Peacock Feathers

The researchers wanted to know if the mechanical properties and morphology of the feathers play some kind of role in courtship in peacocks. They used high-speed videography to record the movement of the peacock’s feathers in front of peahens.

Reasons Peacocks Spread Their Feathers

By using high-speed videography, they wanted to know how the movement of eyespots presents on peacock’s plumage hover. The research was conducted on 14 adult and 14 sub-adult peacocks.

The researchers had also recorded the audio of infrasonic sounds produced by the vibrations of peacock’s feathers. They have recorded the audio because they wanted to know about the frequencies of the sounds produced by the vibrations. The recorded sounds are then compared with the sounds made by the vibrations created by other animals.

The movement of the peacock’s feathers starts from the tail. It goes from the tail to the upper parts of the plumage. The estimated frequencies for train rattling and covert rattling are above the predicted value for animals.

While the estimated value for the frequencies for wing shaking and train shivering is within the range for the predicted value for animals.

The frequencies of the vibrations reduced by train rattling decreased with the time in mating season. Once it gets to the peak amplitude. The frequency of the vibration does not affect by the following variables:

  • Air temperature
  • Number of eyespots being displayed
  • Length of the tail

The tail feathers of the peacock interface weekly with each other during train rattling displays. The peacocks that are majorly involved in courtship rituals vibrate their feathers having frequency ranges from 22 to 28 Hz.

Peacocks Spread Their Feathers To Show Their Attractiveness

Peahens are usually very choosy when it comes to selecting a partner for mating. The plumage and the health of peacocks help them to attract more female peacocks towards them.

The number of eyespots present on the feathers of peacocks indicates their health. The more eyespots on feathers the more will be the chance to have more mates.

In a research study, the train rattling behavior of adult peacocks was compared with the train rattling behavior of sub-adult peacocks.

The frequency of the vibrations created by the train rattling of adult peacocks was lower than the frequencies of vibrations created by the subadult peacocks.

So, How Do Peahens Know Which Male Is More Attractive?

The vibrations created by the feathers of peacocks are also affected by their morphological characters, for example, size of the body, length of the feathers, etc. The heavier the body, the more force will be required to shake their feathers.

Peacocks also vibrate their feathers in the absence of peahens, commonly known as wing shaking. If a peahen responds to a peacock’s train rattling, she will vibrate her tail, which is called covert rattling. Covert rattling is a rare behavior.

The reason for this difference is the weight of the feathers of peacocks. Adult peacocks have heavier feathers than sub-adults. This is why peacocks spread their feathers to show females their manliness and attractiveness.

Special Note

There is a chance of damage to the long feathers of peacocks when they display and keep them erect for display. This risk is compensated by the unique composition and shape of their eyespots. The eyespot feathers are flexible enough to facilitate the vibrations at large amplitude.

Bottom Line

According to Darwin’s theory, peacocks rattle their feathers to get involved in courtship. But according to recent studies, it has been proved that sexual selection by peahens depends on different factors.

Eyespot feathers play significant roles in producing audio and visual signals. The shape of eyespot feathers affects the frequency of the vibrations created by the train rattling.

According to behavioral biologists, there is a need to do more research about the features on which females discriminate among the selection of peacocks. How do the peahens know which peacocks are healthy and suitable for mating just by displaying their feathers?