(1897) Pavo cristatus Linn.
THE COMMON PEAFOWL.
Pavo cristatus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p. 282.
The Common Peafowl is found over nearly the whole of India and Ceylon with the exception of the Trans-Indus country in the North-West and the extreme North-East of India next to Burma. In some places, such as Sind, it is now common although not indigenous, but in the 24th Parganas, Nadia and adjoining districts of Eastern Bengal it is now extinct though once common and, even in the Santhal Parganas etc., is almost so. It does not occur over the greater part of the Sunderbands, but I have seen it in Mymensingh and Barisal in the low-lying forest bordering the coastal and great tidal rivers. It is also found and is still common in many districts of Assam North and South of the Brahmapootra, though in the districts of Bengal East of the Bay its place is taken by the next bird, the Burmese Peafowl.
There can be no doubt that at one time the Peafowl everywhere was the forest-loving, secretive bird that it still is in those parts of India, such as the wilds of Assam, where it is not sacred and has therefore, the same enemies, human and otherwise, that it has everywhere else.
At the present time there are many places where no man’s hand can he raised against it and, in consequence, the birds have become almost domesticated and will breed in any patch of jungle, grove or cluster of bushes or bamboos close to, or almost inside, villages, while at other times they will breed in sugar-cane and other tall, thick crops.
In North Cachar, where it was common up to some 2,000 feet, as well as in the plains of the adjoining districts, its favourite breeding haunts were in very dense forest growing beside streams, and they specially affected those with a thick undergrowth of Ber bushes and thorny creepers. These bushes grow well apart, having little or no foliage for a couple of feet or so, above which they spread out into wide table-shaped tops which are almost impenetrable for man or big animals, yet easy for movement of Peafowl and small animals.
In North Cachar they also sometimes bred in pockets of caue, ekra and thick jungle lying in the hollows between the rolling grass and Oak-covered bills up to 3,000 feet. These pockets nearly always held water, stagnant or running, and water seems to be an absolute necessity for these very thirsty birds. Even when breeding practically in the open in cultivation etc, they still affect water, and Hume says : “canal-banks fringed with trees and traversing rich cultivation are their special delight.” Marshall (G. F. L.) says much the same: “The Peafowl breeds during the rains in the Saharunpore, Bulandshahr and Aligurh districts, usually among the thick undergrowth on the canal-banks.”
The nest is merely a scratching in the ground, sometimes unlined, occasionally well filled with grass, leaves and sticks, often merely wind-blown but, sometimes, apparently carried and placed therein by the birds themselves. If placed in jungle, such as the Ber hushes referred to above, little or no attempt at concealment is made hut, as a rule, in the wilder forests and jungles it is built in tangles of briars, creepers or scrub which hide it.
Peafowl often breed in queer places, I once found a nest, from which the young had hatched, placed in a tangle of creepers and fallen rubbish on the top of a low bush, a few fragments of broken shell showing how it had once been occupied. Anderson once obtained three eggs of this Peafowl from an old nest of the White backed Vulture, built in a tree in which Peafowl were in the habit of roosting. From Kashmir, again, Ward sent me two eggs taken from a Neophron’s nest, one being that of a Peafowl and the other that of the Vulture, who was sitting on the two when taken.
Professor Littledale also records that when the country round Baroda gets flooded the Peafowl resort to the big trees for nesting purposes, and he records the tailing of three fresh eggs from a hollow formed by the great limbs of a Banyan-tree.
Over most of India the breeding season starts after the rains break in the middle of June and continues until September, but clutches of eggs may often be found in other months also. Both Hume and Adam took eggs in October, while Coltart took them in Bihar in April, and I have taken them in March and April in the hills of Assam. In the South of India they breed principally in April and May, but Miss Cockburn gives June and July as the breeding months in the Nilgiris. In Ceylon Legge says they breed from January to April, but Wait says that they lay after the North-East Monsoon has begun.
I think four to six eggs is the normal clutch ; Hume says up to eight and that he has never seen more. Miss Cockburn certainly says that in the Nilgiris they lay ten to fifteen, but this is not the experience of any of the great number of ornithologists who have worked there since her time. Three egga only are often incubated.
The eggs are (vide Hume) “typical rasorial ones, with thick, very strong and glossy shells, closely pitted over their whole surface with minute pores." In shape they are very broad, blunt ovals, hut sometimes curiously pointed ones may be seen.
The colour varies from a very pale cream or cafe-au-lait to a decided huff or cream. Occasionally eggs are flecked, sparingly or plentifully, with a darker buff or huff-brown, while I have seen one curious egg mottled all over with grey as if mildewed.
One hundred eggs average 69.7 x 52.1 mm, : maxima 76.2 x 54.1 and 73.4 x 58.9 mm. ; minima 61.2 x 43.1 mm.
1897. Pavo cristatus
(1897) Pavo cristatus Linn.