Identifying Peafowl Varieties

Before you Begin Raising Peafowl, Understand the Different Peafowl Varieties

peafowl-varieties

This India Blue (Pavo cristatus) pied peacock shows the mix of color and white feathers desired. A silver pied bird will present only 10-20 percent colored feathers, the rest being white. Photos courtesy of George & Sonja Conner

By George and Sonja Conner, United Peafowl Association 

Many of us have had times when we were not sure of what variety a peafowl was. This is an effort to explain some of the differences in peafowl variety and aid in identification. It would have been easier when only green, Pavo muticus, and India blues, Pavo cristatus, existed. But since the early 1800s, color and pattern mutations and hybrids have occurred. Things have gotten more complicated when explaining peafowl varieties.

The black shouldered (called black-winged in Europe) was the first mutation to appear. Older data shows that for years this was thought to be a color mutation. It is now recognized as a pattern mutation of the India blue color. The India blue birds are called the wild pattern. The India blue (wild) pattern males have barred wings and the black shoulder pattern doesn’t. The chicks and hens also differ, as explained later. Most of the color mutations can be found in both wild and black shoulder patterns.

All of the known color and pattern mutations have been from Pavo cristatus. Some birds can have several patterns. You could come up with a peafowl as Spalding (hybrid), peach (color), black shoulder (pattern), pied white-eye (pattern). Yes, it can be confusing. This article deals only in phenotype — what the bird looks like. Knowing all the actual genes — genotype — depends upon good record keeping and honesty on the part of the owner.

I will make the disclaimer that all people see colors differently, computer monitors have different tones, lighting causes variation, and almost all photos flatten the iridescence and glow of the feathers.

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PAVO MUTICUS

Green peafowl are longer legged and have a more streamlined body than Pavo cristatus. They have a tall, tight crest instead of fan-shaped. Their voices are even different. They are more of the baritone, rather than the tenor of the cristatus. The female is more colorful. It is harder to sex the younger birds. I highly suggest laboratory testing to be sure of the sex if buying or selling green peachicks, unless you are a gambler. The peachicks will be larger and longer legged than the cristatus and a dark, charcoal brown color.

The three sub-species of the green peafowl currently available to breeders in the United States are:

Pavo muticus-muticus, from Java: Crest is light metallic green. Head has blue green feathers on the crown. Light blue facial skin around the eye with yellow under. Neck feathers are dark blue-green with edges of light, metallic, green-gold. The heavy edge lacing gives the appearance of scales. This continues into the breast and to the saddle feathers. Lower breast is dark green. Thighs are black. Descriptions of the back and wing colors have varied over the years. Different breeders have emphasized one feature or the other through many generations of breeding. Some lines have heavier lacing or barring while others carry the blue shoulder color more dominantly. They may all be pure blood, but reflect the breeder’s preference of selection. The overall look of the muticus-muticus is the bright olive metallic green. The female is slightly smaller and slightly less colorful.

Pavo muticus-imperator, from Indo- China: These will show slightly darker and duller color. The breast and neck feather borders will be more copper buff colored. The secondaries on the wings are dark with some blue edges. The overall appearance is more buff on the green rather than the bright olive of the muticus-muticus.

Pavo muticus-specifer, from Burma: These show as darker and bluer than the previous muticus birds listed. They look duller because of a little pewter gray tone over the green feather lacing.

peafowl-varieties

This “unisex” bird is now 10 years old. She is a black shoulder hen which has male features including a long tail and she never laid an egg. Don’t buy one of these to reproduce!

PAVO CRISTATUS

INDIA BLUE — wild type species

Male: Has a fan-shaped crest. Head is metallic blue. Has white facial skin. Black “mascara” streak on either side of the eyes. The neck is bright, metallic blue. Breast is bright blue, changing to black on the lower area. Sides of the breast have green tones. Tertiaries, secondaries, and top feathers of the primaries are barred pale buff and brownish black with a slight green overcast. The last few feathers of the primaries are dark brownish black. Coverts are rusty brown. Legs are gray buff color.

Train is a wonderment of iridescence with green, blue, black, pink and gold showing differently in varied lighting. The ocelli (eyes) have a dark blue center, surrounded by rings of blue-green and copper. These are surrounded by thin rings of pale purple, green gold, pale purple, and green gold. The herl is iridescent green to pink. I’m sitting here looking at a feather and the colors seem different every direction it is moved. It is the twist of the feather structure which gives them this iridescence. Female: Has a fan-shaped crest. Head and crest are chestnut brown. The sides of the head and throat are off-white. Lower neck, upper breast, and upper back are metallic green. Lower breast is pale buff. Legs are gray. The rest of the body and wings are brown. Chick: Brownish buff, darkening on the back and having darker markings on the wings. The breast is pale buff. Around six months of age, the rusty coverts and blue neck feathers are showing in the males. Females will show a little green in the neck. The entire neck and head of the male will be blue at one year.

peafowl-varieties

Note in this Pavo muticus muticus (the green peafowl line from Java) the tall, tight crest instead of the fan-shaped crest typical of the India Blue line.

COLOR MUTATIONS

(Given in the wild pattern. Males will have darker barring on the wings.)

WHITE: This was the first true color mutation to show up. They are not albinos. They carry an “absence of color” gene. White ocelli are visible in the tail. All feathers on the bird are white. The chicks are light yellow when hatched. Developing feathers will be white. It is difficult to sex the chicks. Blood tests are the only sure way of knowing. This peafowl can be either wild pattern or black shoulder, but the white color masks the pattern.

CAMEO: Male: The feathers in this color mutation do not have the twisted structure which causes iridescence. Crest and head are chocolate brown. Facial skin is white. Back of neck to the saddles and front of neck and breast are chocolate brown. Abdomen is lighter brown. Wings are light tan barred with brown. The train is light brown with noticeable eyes. Sex linked.* Female: Crest is brown. Head and top of neck is brown. She has white facial skin. “Mascara line” across the eye is brown. Breast is cream. The rest of the peahen is tan. Chick: Creamy tan.

CHARCOAL: This color is under consideration because no one has yet presented to the UPA a hen that lays eggs. Male: Crest and head are dark charcoal. Facial skin is white. Neck, breast, back and train are dark charcoal. The wings are lighter charcoal. Coverts have a rusty tone. No iridescence. Female: Darker gray than the opal female. Crest, head and neck are charcoal. Body and wings are lighter charcoal. Abdomen is pale buff. No iridescence. No one has verified that charcoal hens lay eggs. Chicks: Gray

PURPLE: Male: Crest, head, and neck are a deeper blue than the India blue color. As the ruby throat of the hummingbirds show red only in the sunlight, the red with blue tones making up the purple in this peafowl show more distinctly in the sunshine. It will show a definite purple. The first wide band of color outside the dark center patch of the ocilli will be purple. This color is sex linked.* Female: Similar to India blue color. The neck feathers will show a definite purple hue. Chick: Much like the India blue color.

BUFORD BRONZE: Male: Receives its name because Buford Abbott first discovered and started working with it. After his death, Clifton Nickolson, Jr. purchased them, continued the work, and suggested the name. This whole peacock is a rich, deep, bronze color except for slightly lighter coverts. Wild pattern has a deeper toned barring on the wings. Facial skin is white. The center of the ocilli is black with various shades of bronze completing the eye. Female: Brown, with darker bronze through the neck. Chick: Dark brown.

PEACH: Male: Head is a rusty brown color. Body is peach colored. Wings and train are lighter. This color is sex linked.* Female: Light peach blending to light, creamy tan. Chick: Light peach color.

OPAL: Male: Crest, head and neck are deep gray, not as dark as charcoal. Body is gray. Wings are gray. Breast is lighter with purplish brown overtones in some lights. Tail is colorful with olive gray tones. Like the opal stone, the bird shows tones of green, blue gray, purplish, and other colors as it moves in different lights. Female: Crest, head, and some of the primaries are gray. Neck has some of the opal color sheen. The rest of the body is light dove gray. Breast is very light, almost creamy. Chick: Light gray.

TAUPE: The color for male and female is a soft gray undertone with a warm, pinkish, tan blush in a sheen, rather than irridescence. The head is a little darker than the tail, but with the same color tones. Chick: Very light, warm, gray.

VIOLETE: Male: Color is very dark—think African violet dark. The tail feathers’ eyes are dark purple, black, and beetle green with a dusky irridescence. Head and neck will be very dark. Female: has a dark blue-violet neck. She will have a brown back with some purple highlights. Chick: A darker brown than a blue chick. The Violete is a sex linked color.*

Photos of the Taupe and Violete appear in the 2011 version of the United Peafowl Association calendar.

MIDNIGHT: Male: The mutation was first found in the black shoulder pattern. Like a dark, sooty, India blue color. There is no blue in the neck. Has sheen, but not the bright iridescence of the blue color. The train is dark with very dark eyes. The wild pattern will have wing barring. Female: The wild pattern will be brown. Midnight colored sheen will show in the neck. Chick: The wild pattern will be brown. Black shoulder pattern is palest cream.

JADE: Male: Head and neck are very dark blue-green jade color. Body is dark. Train has sage and olive tones in a deep jade color. Female: Brown, with the jade tones in her neck. Chick: Dark brown.

* Sex Linked: Males of cameo, peach, purple and violete, when bred to other colored females, produce female offspring of the father’s color and male offspring heterozygous, or split to his color. A split carries the genes (genotype) of his father, but not the color (phenotype).

The female of these four colors will not have offspring in her color if bred to another color male. Her sons will be split. Cameo, peach, purple, and violetemales bred to their own color females will breed true.

This is the first generation crossing. Crossing of siblings, back to parents, etc. would take more space than I have here. There is excellent genetic information available on line and in books.

peafowl-varieties

These silver pieds show the black shoulder pattern.

PATTERN MUTATIONS

BLACK SHOULDER PATTERN MUTATION

Male: Has plain, unbarred wings. All of the Pavo cristatus colors can be found in this pattern. In the blue coloring, the shoulders are deep, lustrous black. Female: Very pale cream, gray, or white with dark spots randomly occurring on the back, body, and wings. Neck is cream with some buff and accents whick will show the color she is. The end of the tail is darker; color depends upon her color mutation. There is also a strain of this pattern developed by Jack Seipel with the dark feathers on the breast being arranged in vertical streaks. Chick: Very pale cream down turning to white feathers with spots. Both male and female will look the same at first. Males will start to darken and color up after several months.

peafowl-varieties

This black shoulder midnight peahen shows the seiple pattern where the dark feathers on the breast are arranged in vertical streaks.

PIED PATTERN

This pattern is on a colored peafowl which has colored feathers replaced with white feathers. It can have just one or two white feathers or many. 30 to 50 percent white is desirable. Pied bred to pied will, on average, yield 25% white offspring, 50% of the colored pied, and 25% colored which will carry the pied gene. This is called the 1-2-1 ratio. This ratio may not hold up when hatching just a few birds, but it shows the probabilities.

WHITE-EYE PATTERN

Male: will have white-eye feathers in the train. Female: Color will have a grayer cast. She will have various sizes and amounts of white tips on her back and shoulders. Can be any color.

PIED WHITE-EYE PATTERN

This is a colored peafowl which has some of the colored feathers replaced with white feathers and also has white eyes in the train. It shows the 1-2-1 ratio.

SILVER PIED PATTERN

This is a white peafowl with 10 to 20 percent colored feathers. The silver pied must have the white-eye gene. Male: may show a phenotype (how it looks) of an all white train, but this is because the white color has masked the white-eye pattern. The color will usually show in the neck, upper breast, and parts of the tail. They show a more silvery color on the back as they age. Female: Will have a white body with silver gray and white. Chicks: White, usually with a dark spot on the back of the head, neck, or back.

HYBRID

Mrs. Spalding was the first person who was credited with documenting her cross of the Pavo muticus species and Pavo cristatus species. This produced the hybrid known by her name. Any India blue color or color mutations crossed with a muticus is now known as a Spalding. Hybridizing with the green blood gives a taller peafowl and enhances the other color. If bred back to the green birds again, it will start to show more and more of the green characteristics.

This gives a quick overview on identification. One breeder I know looks at more than 20 points of identification in each bird. It would take a book to cover these — if I knew them. Research shows how many of these birds have changed in the last 40 years. A new mutation is so rare it usually shows up in just one bird. The breeders then spend years increasing and refining the mutation. Without cloning, each bird will be an individual and may differ a little from others in its line. Breeders will select the features they like best and breed to improve that feature. It is up to you which ones you prefer.

We owe these breeders our gratitude for the years of dedication in developing and improving these mutations.

For more information about raising peafowl, see the United Peafowl Association’s website: www.peafowl.org.

You might also like this story about raising peafowl from Backyard Poultry magazineHow to incubate peahen eggs

Originally published in the February/March 2011 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine.

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