Pavo muticus

Burmese Peafowl.

Pavo muticus.

Daung, Burmese.

This Eastern species of peafowl, the only relative and rival of our old friend which figures on a small scale below it on the plate, is also well known in its way from Japanese art, in which it is the only form of peafowl represented; many people must have noticed that the Japanese artist's peafowl have long narrow crests and neck-feathers as clearly denned as the scales of a fish; and these points are indeed characteristic of both sexes of the Burmese bird, as well as the predominant green colour of the neck and the plumage generally, on account of which it is sometimes called the green peacock. The long lance-head shaped crest has given the bird one of its scientific names, Pavo spicifer, and the dealers at home often call it the " specifer peacock." In this species the bare skin of the face is much more extended than in the Indian peacock, and is richly coloured with orange-yellow on the jaws and cheeks and mauve-blue round the eyes. The train is very like that of the common peacock, but the wings are black in both sexes, and both have cinnamon pinion-quills. In fact, fine hens of this species are almost exactly like cocks, except of course for having no train ; and they likewise lack the scale-like shoulder patch, which is greener and less gold in this species than in the other, but they have dark under-parts like the cocks. Yearling cocks already have the green short tail-coverts which the ordinary bird does not get till the second year and are so like old hens that the only reliable distinction is the colour of the little patch of feathers that breaks the bare facial skin between bill and eye; this is rusty brown even in the best hens, and deep glossy green in any cock. A similar difference may be observed in this patch in common peafowl. As hens of the Burmese bird have spurs as a regular thing, they are of no use as a sex distinction.

In the second year the Burmese pea cockerel assumes the scaly scapular patch and an especial mark of masculinity, a lovely blue patch near the pinion-joint of the wing, an area which is always green in the hen ; in the third he gets his full train, so his development is really much like that of his Western cousin in point of stages, though he starts with an advantage.

The note is, however, strikingly different in this bird, being six-syllabled and very subdued and unobtrusive. The bird,itself, however, is not by any means so in captivity, for he is extremely spiteful and a most dangerous bird to have about where there are children and infirm people, while his unexpected attacks are not pleasant for anyone. Yet he is quite susceptible of attach¬ment to individuals, and the young birds and hens are charmingly tame. The cock also chiefly shows his fierce temper when in possession of his full train, showing a curious analogy to deer, which are chiefly dangerous when possessing their horns.

The range of this peafowl begins where that of the common bird ends; it has been recorded from one locality in Cachar, where, however, the other is the ordinary species, as in Assam ; it is the only peafowl found in Burma and Malaysia, and ranges eastwards to Java. It must have been taken to Japan many centuries ago, for it was first described by Aldrovandi in the 16th century, from a drawing sent by the Japanese Emperor to the Pope. In Europe it is rare in captivity, and not much is on record about it in the wild state. It is not nearly so common in most places as is the Indian peafowl, being only really abundant in our limits in Upper Burma, and occurring generally in isolated colonies a long distance apart. The general habits appear to be similar to those of the common peafowl, though it is much wilder and less sociable, but there are no doubt other differences in detail. "Wallace, speaking of the bird in Java, says it flies over high trees with ease, and an officer I met told me that it could be seen in the evening flighting up the rivers in Burma; this looks as if it flew more freely and readily than the Indian species, and it certainly has longer wings, the pinion-quills showing their tips outside the others in the closed wing. Its remarkably slim and long-legged build is also noticeable; in fact, it is as stilty as many waders, and I have seen hens at the London Zoo, when kept along with cranes, wading and standing in a small pond in cold as well as hot weather, though their mate, a very chilly bird, would not do so. Tickell also says that these birds, as well as jungle-fowl in Burma, especially affect islets in rivers in the evening, scratching in the sand at the margin and roosting safe from vermin. Possibly they wade about also ; the domestic fowl in India is certainly a great wader in suburban ditches in Calcutta, or was in my time, when they seemed nearly as aquatic as rails, wading right up to their hocks.

The display of this peafowl is similar to that of the common species, but the wings are brought farther forward so as to brush the legs, and owing to the length of these and the comparative skimpiness of the train, the " nautch " is less grand and imposing. As this green peafowl has occurred in the territory of the other species, hybrids between the two might occasionally occur, so it is worth while to mention the points of some which were breda few years back in the London Zoo between a Javan hen and a black-winged common peacock. Hens and yearling cocks (the latter were sent away soon after their first year) were much alike and had dark brown plumage, pencilled with buff above, and with no white on the lower parts; the quills were cinnamon in all, and the upper tail-coverts bronzed. So far they resembled more their Javan mother, but the crest was that of the common pea¬ fowl, and they had the face-skin equally limited in extent, and nearly as white, but with a vivid orange patch under the ear. The colour of the neck, however, was of a rich glossy emerald, like a mallard's, differing much from the bronze-green and purple of the Javan birds and more resembling that of the nape of the common peahen, though covering the entire neck. A trio of these birds are said to have reproduced again in the grounds of the well-known Dutch aviculturist, Mynheer Blaauw. The eggs of this species, which are laid during the rains, resemble those of common peafowl, and the chicks also appear to be similar.

Indian Sporting Birds
Finn, Frank. Indian Sporting Birds. Edwards, 1915.
Title in Book: 
Pavo muticus
Book Author: 
Frank Finn
Page No: 
Common name: 
Burmese Peafowl
Green Peafowl
Pavo muticus
Term name: 

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