Peacock vs Peafowl – What is the Difference?
The terms “peacock” and “peafowl” are often used interchangeably, and for good reason – they describe the same species of bird that’s part of the Phasianidae family.
But the term ‘peacock’ is used to describe the male of the species, while the term ‘peafowl’ refers to both genders of the species. Even without this explanation, it’s easy to guess which refers to the male bird.
If you’re still confused about the difference between a peacock and a peafowl, you’ll find a more detailed explanation below:
What is a Peacock?
The male peafowl is called a peacock. These birds are part of the pheasant family and are mostly terrestrial birds with richly colored plumage.
Peacocks feature fan-shaped tail feathers – or train – that are 55 to 63 inches in length and ornate with colorful eyespots, called ocelli.
It’s not only the train that’s resplendent in these birds, but their entire plumage is a spectacle or iridescent colors that make peacocks one of the most impressive birds in the world.
Females of the species are still spectacular but not nearly as impressive as the males of the species.
What is Peafowl?
The term ‘peafowl’ refers to both the male and the female of the species. There are three species of peafowl, each with their own particularities and distinct geographical distribution.
The three species of peafowl are the Indian peafowl or the Blue Peafowl, the Congo peafowl or the African peafowl, and the Green peafowl or the Asian peafowl.
Of these, the Green peafowl has been listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2009, while the Congo peafowl is listed as vulnerable.
Although ‘peafowl’ is the correct term to describe both genders of the species, most times people just use the term peacock to refer to either genders.
But female peafowls have a different name. Which brings us to the next point:
What is a Female Peacock Called?
If the male peafowl is called a peacock, the female is called a peahen. Peahens are smaller and less ostentatious when compared to peacocks. Still, by any measure, peahens are still impressive birds.
And since we’re discussing the females of the species, it’s only natural to also cover the name of the baby peafowl. Baby peafowls are called peachicks.
If you think about it, the same terms used to describe chicken – hen for the female, chick for the baby chicken – are also used to describe the female and baby peafowl.
Peacock vs Peahen – What is the Difference?
We’ve established so far that the peacock is the male peafowl, while the peahen is the female peafowl. But what’s the difference between the two?
Here are some aspects in which peacocks and peahens are different:
Peahens are smaller than peacocks. How much smaller? Let’s just say that the difference is noticeable.
For example, the male Green peafowl is 1.8–3 m (5 ft 11 in – 9 ft 10 in) in total length, while the female is just around half the total length of the breeding male at 1–1.1 m (3 ft 3 in – 3 ft 7 in) in length.
The difference in size is not that significant when comparing the male Congo peafowl to the female Congo peafowl. The female is still smaller but only by 3-4 inches.
Another difference is the difference in weight. Since peacocks are larger in size, they also weigh more.
While an Indian peacock, for example, weighs around 8.8–13 lbs (4-6 kg), the peahen weighs only 6-8.8 lbs (2.8 – 6 kg).
Females of the species lack the train that comes up in the shape of a fan in peacocks. Peacocks shake these during courtship to attract or impress females.
For long, it was considered that these elaborate tail feathers evolved as a result of the preference of peahens for these, but further studies have shown no evidence to support these claims.
– Plumage Color
A further difference between a peacock and a peahen is the color of the plumage. Plumage colors vary from species to species.
Except for the Green peafowl, where differences in the color of plumage are not as marked, in the other two species of peafowl, the differences are notable.
For example, the Blue peacock features metallic blue plumage on the head, neck and breasts. The back and base of the tail feathers are bronze green and resemble scales. The train is ornate with olive green eyespots.
In contrast, the peahen of the species has a rufous-brown head and upper body is brownish with pale mottling.
The difference between the plumage of the male and female Congo peafowl is also evident. The upperpants of the Congo peacock features indigo and brownish-green feathers. The neck, head and underpants are blackish. The neck features a red patch of skin.
The Congo peahen has underpants that are rusty brown and mossy-green upperpants.
Therefore, if size proves a bad indicator, you can always rely on the color of the plumage to tell the difference between a peacock and a peahen.
What is a Group of Peafowl Called?
Now that we’ve established what a peafowl, peacock, and a peahen is, let’s see which is the collective noun for a group of peafowl.
There are actually three terms used to describe a group of peafowl – an ‘ostentation’, a ‘muster’, or a ‘pride’.
Of these, the word ‘ostentation’ is possibly the best descriptor of a group of peafowls. The meaning of the word is ‘a pretentious or showy display’, which frankly is a befitting description for these birds.
Although the terms peacock and peafowl are used interchangeably, the term peacock refers only to the male peafowl, while the term peafowl includes the female bird as well. Female peafowls are called peahens.
Besides, clearing up these terms, I’ve also pointed out the differences between a peacock and a peahen – size, weight, plumage color, train, etc.
Even with these differences in mind, you might still have trouble distinguishing a peahen from a peacock unless they’re side-by-side, in which case a simple look at their sizes and colors will be enough to know which is which.