What’s the Difference Between Male and Female Peacocks?

Male Peacock Courting a Peahen. Source: Flickr / Rusty Clark

Male peacocks are simply referred to as peacocks, whereas female peacocks are known as peahens. The differences between these birds include differences in size, color and behavioral traits. Male peacocks are generally larger, more colorful and display specific behavioral traits such as wing-shaking and train-rattling when mating.

Difference in Color

One of the primary differences between male and female peacocks pertains to the color of their feathers. The feathers of a male peacock typically feature an opalescent shade of vibrant blue. The bright blue colors help male peacocks gain the attention of potential mates. Females, on the other hand, generally have subtle feather colors such as shades of grey, cream and brown. More notably, females have white bellies, while their male counterparts have shades of blue on their bellies similar to their feathers. Although males are considerably more attractive, the subtle color of the female’s feathers gives them the upper hand when it comes to camouflage or avoiding predators.

Male Peacock – Source: Flickr / Mike Boswell

Difference in Size

Another noticeable difference between male and female peacocks revolves around their size. Female peacocks, or peahens, are considerably smaller than male peacocks. Male peacocks can range from 3 feet to 4 1/2 feet long, and weigh as much as 13 pounds. Female peacocks typically range from 2 1/2 feet to 3 1/2 feet long, and weigh as much as 9 pounds. Males generally have longer legs than females, and though both have spurs, males usually develop spurs earlier than females. Additionally, female spurs are blunt and noticeably shorter.

Feathers and Markings

Male peacocks have more than 200 covert feathers along the top of the back used to cover the base of the tail feathers. In some cases, males have scale-like feathers on their back adjacent to the covert feathers. Female peacocks have scale-like feathers on their neck, while the feathers on their back are brown or solid in color. It is important to note that male peacocks have a long tail of feathers that features an eyespot referred to as an ornamental ocellus. During courtship, male peacocks fan these feathers to attract a potential mate. Aside from feathers, both male and female peacocks have distinct white markings around their eyes. The white markings above and below the male peacock’s eyes are more prominent, whereas the female’s markings tend to blend in with their feathers and skin color.

Female Peahen – Source: Flickr / Public Domain Photography

Train Length

The length of the peacock’s tail feathers also helps to distinguish male peacocks from female peacocks. Male peacocks usually have tail feathers that measure between 2 feet and 5 feet long. Male feathers have a range of colors, while female peacocks lack a train of feathers all together. The female’s tail feathers are short, and usually brown and cream colored. For male peacocks, the train of feathers equates to about 60 percent of the bird’s total body length. During courtship, male peacocks can make their tail erect, similar to the shape of a fan. Females can also make their tail erect, however, this is to signal danger to chicks or to display authority when fighting over a potential mate.

Behavior Difference

Although both male and females live in groups when in the wild, male peacocks are more solitary, which is one of the main behavioral differences between the two. Other noticeable behavioral differences between male and female peacocks occur during breeding season. Male peacocks gain the attention of females by shaking their wings and rattling their tails. In some cases, males stand near vegetation with their tails in a semi-circular display so females can observe them from far distances. During mating season, females are more aggressive than males, and typically fight with other females over the best male for a potential mate. Unlike males, female peacocks incubate eggs and build nests for chicks, while males generally do not display any parental involvement.