How do Peacocks Mate?
With a mating ritual that involves a colorful display of tail feathers, peacocks mate in similar ways to other birds.
The peacock raises its tail feathers, which open in a fan shape, displaying the colorful and iconic eyespots they’re known after. All this is done in an attempt to woo peahens.
Peahens are not so easily won. In fact, they can take their time in picking their mates, and go for the peacocks that have the most colorful and dazzling feathers.
If you’re curious about the mating behaviors of peacocks, in this article I will discuss all you need to know about the mating rituals of these birds.
Do Peacocks Have Sex?
Yes, peacocks have sex with peahens as part of their mating ritual. There’s a myth that peafowls don’t copulate, when in fact they copulate the same way other birds do, i.e., with the help of their cloacas.
When mating, the peacock mounts the peahen so that their cloacas are aligned, then the peacock transfers its sperm, which then, due to muscle spasms, makes its way through the uterus to fertilize the egg.
The act of copulation, however, is preceded by several other mating behaviors, some quite spectacular even, that I’m going to detail below.
Peacocks Mating Behavior
Generally, mating behaviors in birds are somewhat similar, especially in bird species where the males have highly colorful and ornamental plumage as opposed to the females.
These birds use their colorful plumage to attract and impress female birds along with a series of dances and shaking of feathers, flapping of wings.
Peacocks also exhibit these mating rituals when trying to get the attention of peahens.
Let’s see how things unfold during the mating season of peacocks, and which are some of the most notable behaviors we can observe.
– Mating Season
The mating season in peafowls starts in late February or early March and lasts until August. Males will display their colorful tail feathers and call out to attract females.
The train of a peacock features around 200 feathers and can be up to 6 feet long. The more colorful and taller the train, the higher the chances to attract a mate.
In August, at the end of the breeding season, peacocks lose their colorful train feathers, but grow them back just in time for the next breeding season.
Peacock feathers are valuable in themselves and they’re used as an ornament in various hats, wreaths, and house decorations.
When the mating season begins, peacocks gather in small territories called a ‘lek’, where males will display their courtship and mating rituals to attract prospective mates.
– Mating Call
Beyond the displaying of its colorful train, a peacock will also use a mating call to attract the attention of peahens that survey prospective mates.
The peacock mating call is a high-pitched honking call that’s loud enough to travel several miles. The peacock will also emit a high-pitched mating call when it prepares to mount the peahen.
Females will survey several territories – called a ‘lek’ – where males aggregate before they choose a mate. Peahens signal acceptance of the peacock by crouching down on the ground.
– Mating Dance
There’s another aspect of the mating behavior of peacocks that’s also very notable, and that’s the mating dance, which once again serves the purpose of getting the attention of peahens.
The mating dance is the single most impressive mating ritual displayed by peacocks. They don’t just raise their train and open it into a fan-shape, they’ll also shake their feathers to produce a rattling noise and strut back and forth.
After the female peafowl signals her acceptance of the male, the peacock will perform a ‘hoot dash’, which is nothing else but the peacock rushing towards the female to mount her, while making a loud call.
In a nutshell, these are the mating behaviors of peafowls that we can observe during the breeding season.
Peafowls are often mistakenly thought to mate for life. However, as I will explain below, that’s not at all the case.
Do Peacocks Mate for Life?
No, peacocks do not mate for life. After mating, the peacock will not be involved in the incubation of the eggs or the raising of the peachicks. All these will be carried out by the peahen alone.
The peahen is also the one to choose the nesting site, make the nest in scrub vegetation, lay the eggs, and then incubate them.
The peahen will usually lay up to 6 eggs and then proceeds to incubate the eggs for a period of 28 to 30 days.
In a couple of days after hatching, the peahen will start teaching the peachicks how to scavenge and forage for food, and what types of food they can eat.
Peachicks can fly at an early age because their flight feathers develop quickly, although they don’t fly at high altitudes or for long periods of time. When they’re just a few days old, the risk of them getting injured is also high.
Peacocks are polygynous birds and will mate with several peahens during the mating season.
None of the peafowl species are monogamous, although monogamous attachments have been observed in Green Peafowls raised in captivity.
But this does not seem to be the norm in the general peafowl population.
At What Age do Peacocks Mate?
Compared to other birds, peacocks take several years to reach reproductive maturity. These birds reach full fertility at 3 years of age.
A peahen may start laying eggs sooner than 3 years of age, however, these eggs will not be fertile, so incubating them would not result in any peachicks.
When a peahen is preparing to lay an egg, her wings get all droopy, and point downwards. Peahens will usually lay their eggs in the evening.
It takes a 6-10-day period for the peahen to lay her eggs, usually laying them every other day. After laying the eggs, the peahen proceeds to incubate them, which takes another 28-30 days.
In peahens raised in captivity, it’s customary to take away the eggs, which will stimulate the peahen to lay more eggs to replace the ones that are removed. Even with this ‘trick’, a peahen will only lay up to 30 eggs a year.
How Often do Peacocks Mate?
Because of their polygynous nature, peacocks will mate with several females during the breeding season. Both peacocks and peahens can become aggressive during the mating season.
Males become competitive amongst each other, and peahens will also compete for a chance to mate with a dominant male. In fact, a peahen may go as far as to repeatedly mate with the same peacock just to prevent mating attempts by other peahens.
Therefore, during the mating season that starts in spring and lasts until late summer, peacocks will mate with several different peahens.
In the wild, peahens will typically raise only a single clutch. In captivity, things are a bit different, given that usually the eggs of the peahen are taken away. This will stimulate her to lay more eggs to replace the missing eggs.
In captivity, peahens will raise around three clutches per year, each clutch containing around 4-12 eggs, but about 6 eggs on average.
Peafowls reproduce the same way many other birds do; however, because of the mating display of the peacock, the mating rituals of peafowls are more notable.
A peculiarity of how peacocks mate is how late they reach reproductive maturity. It can take as many as 3 years for peafowls to reach reproductive maturity. Males of the species will mate with several other peahens during the mating season.
Peafowls aren’t monogamous, and the female is solely responsible for making the nest, laying the eggs, incubating them, and raising the peachicks.
On average, peahens lay only 20 eggs per year, which is very few compared to other types of poultry such as chicken.