Peafowl have an elaborate and beautiful mating ritual. “Peafowl” is the proper term that refers to the species of birds with the term “peacock” reserved for the males and “peahen” for the females.
The peafowl mating season begins in the spring when peacocks aggregate into small territories known as a ‘lek’. The purpose of the lek is thought to increase the number of potential peahen arriving per peacock. Peacocks are polygamous by nature, often having several partners during the season, and after courtship and mating. Once banded together in a lek, the males give off loud courtship calls that can travel several miles. Peahen typically stroll through several of these territories and survey the displays by the peacocks to choose a mate.
During courtship, a peacock will spread his tail feathers (known as a ‘train’) into a large fan-shape and strut about, shaking the feathers to attract the attention of the peahens. A peahen will choose a mate based on who has the largest and most colorful feathers, often focused on the lower portion of the train. To signal acceptance, the peahen will crouch down on the ground and the peacock will perform what’s known as a ‘hoot dash’, rushing towards the peahen, making a loud call.
During sex, the male peacock mounts the peahen and aligns his tail with hers, which in turn, aligns the sexual organs, known cloacas. Both peacocks and peahens have cloacas. The peacock’s sperm is then transferred to the peahen where it makes its way up to the uterus to fertilize the egg via muscular spasms.
Peahen make their nests in scrub vegetation after mating where they will lay up to six eggs following a 28 to 30 day incubation period. After hatching, the mother will move the young peafowl (known as ‘peachicks’) away from the original nest as egg shells may attract predators. After a few days, the peachicks can fly, although not very high. At nighttime, peachicks tuck themselves under the mother’s wing to sleep.
After mating, the peacock will part ways with the female. The males do not figure in or become involved in any way in the raising of the young. All of it is left to the peahen.