There’s no denying how beautiful peacocks are. Their brightly-colored feathers draw you in and leave you in awe. But come to think of it, peacocks are often seen displaying their tails and walking on the ground.
Peacocks are capable of flight, although they may not fly as high nor as far as birds of flight. Peafowls belong to the pheasant family of birds, which means that they have long bodies with notably shorter and rounder wings. That makes flying difficult – but not impossible.
So, what exactly are the limitations that keep peacocks from soaring high? Do their tails prevent them from flying? How long can they fly? These are just some of the questions that this article will cover.
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Are Peacocks a Flightless Bird?
The misconception stems from the fact that it’s quite rare to see peacocks fly. By looking at how well they seem to manage their lives on the ground, these birds are often compared to flightless birds like emus and cassowaries. But that’s not the case at all.
Peafowl – the gender-neutral term for these birds – are part of the pheasant family. Pheasants are known for their distinctively long tails and pear-shaped bodies. Within this bird family, the peafowl is one of the larger species.
Because of their size and impressively lengthy tails, these birds aren’t exactly the most graceful while flying. As such, you can only see them move in a vertical direction, whether it’s for climbing up a tree or flying down from the roof.
When Do Peacocks Fly?
Peacocks fly only when they have to and not for leisure or any other purpose. To help you understand, there’s a need to look into the lifestyle of these majestic fowls.
Over the years, peafowls have evolved into ground birds. Unlike other avians, these beautiful species have fully accustomed to life on land. Aside from socializing and mating, these birds also feed on insects, grains, and other food that can easily be found on the ground. This includes small insects, grass, seeds, and other low-lying foliage. As such, they do not have to fly from tree to tree to pick fruits or worms.
Since most of their activities happen on land, peacocks fly only when they are startled or feel threatened on the ground. They use it as a means to escape danger.
Also, it must be noted that peacocks love sleeping on higher ground. These male birds are very territorial, so they love sleeping on a branch or roof that allows them to see everything. And when the morning comes, these birds also fly down from where they’re sleeping.
In some instances, peafowl also flies over barriers if they have to. It may either be to get close to a potential mate, look for food, or simply explore its surroundings. This is something to take note of, especially if you’re planning to keep your peafowl in an enclosed fence.
Why Don’t Peacocks Fly?
Peacocks spend only around 2% of the time in flight. They do not depend on it for hunting and other activities. Their body shape, size, and rounded wings also make flying more challenging, so they only do so when they have to.
Additionally, peacocks are known for their powerful legs. They can walk and run for miles to hunt for food, making them more effective at foraging on land than being airborne.
As opposed to most birds, peahens prefer to make their nests on the ground instead of on tree branches. They simply look for a shrub or other shady foliage where they can lay eggs in peace. Perhaps the only time they make nests on top of trees is if they’re in the wild with potential predators nearby.
Do Peacocks’ Tails Prevent Them From Flying?
A peacock’s tail does not prevent them from flying. This may come as a surprise since peacock tails can grow up to 6 feet long and look quite heavy.
But before digging deeper, there should be a distinction between the male and female peafowls. The peacocks, or the males, are long, colorful, and eye-catching tails. These impressive tails can grow to up to 6 feet long – or much longer than the length of its body.
These colorful tails are often used to attract potential mates following an interesting train rattling courtship dance. When they’re not trying to attract their mate, these long tails look like elegant trains on their backs.
Interestingly, peahens do not have such long tails. At most, their tails can only grow up to 6 inches. Now that’s quite the difference between the male and female peafowls.
But because of the lengthy train on the peacock, some people assume that this makes flying difficult for the males. However, that’s not the case at all.
Studies reveal that the tail feathers on a peacock only weigh a little over half a pound. Despite looking long and bulky, the train did not have any effect on how effective peacocks are at flying. Thus, there is no known difference between a peacock’s and a peahen’s ability to fly, despite the glaring difference in the length of their tails.
How Long Can Peacocks Fly?
Peacocks can fly for only a few seconds at a given time, which allows them to cover a distance of 300 feet and reach up to 80 feet high. This is enough to get them on top of roofs or trees, over a fence, or any other obstruction. Bear in mind that these birds mainly fly vertically, which gets them up or down a higher footing.
This short flying time is a testament to the fact that peacocks are birds that thrive on land. But, it’s a good thing that they can also fly to high areas whenever they have to escape predators.
Can a Peacock Fly High in the Sky?
At most, peacocks can only fly a few feet above the ground and generally in a vertical direction.
Nevertheless, there are certain instances of peacocks observed to be flying for distances of up to a mile. However, these are rare instances since peacocks cannot usually fly high nor far.
Why Do Peacocks Fly Away?
Peacocks fly away to reach higher ground. The reason why they want to fly up may be because of the following reasons:
- They do not feel safe, and they want to avoid danger or a potential predator.
- They want to sleep on the roof or a tree branch.
- They want to observe the extent of their territory from a higher vantage point.
- They want to escape or cross over a fenced area.
How Can a Peacock Fly Despite Not Being an Ordinary Bird?
Despite not being an average flight birds, peacocks still have wings that are powerful enough to get them off the ground whenever they have to. Ordinary flight birds often have long, pointed wings that help them glide elegantly in the sky. This is not the case for peafowls.
Peafowls have a more rounded pair of wings which are quite short considering their body length. As such, they would have to flap these wings fast and repetitiously to stay in the air. While it takes them a lot of effort to fly, it’s proof that peacocks are capable of flight despite not being ordinary birds.
Best Ways to Keep Your Pet Peacocks in the Yard
At this point, you already know that peacocks are capable of flying onto roofs, tall trees, and over fences. But bear in mind that peacocks tend to fly away because they feel unsafe. Here are some useful tips to help them stay in your yard:
- Make sure that your yard is free from predators or that no predators can go in and out of it.
- Make sure that the space is big enough for your peafowls. These birds can grow up to 10 feet in length, so they need a lot of space to move around. If you’re planning to take care of several peafowls, you have to consider giving them a large space to roam around.
- Peacocks can be very territorial, so make sure that there’s only one male in the group of peafowl.
- Make sure that your peafowl is getting enough food and water so they don’t have to search for more beyond your yard.
- Peacocks prefer sleeping while perched on a tree or any higher ground. As such, make sure that there are perches around your yard where they can spend time. These perches can be of varying heights, preferably at around 4 to 6 feet.
Facts About Peacocks
Here are some interesting facts about peacocks that you might want to know:
- A peacock’s tail feather is composed of up to 175 colorful feathers.
- The eyespots on a peacock’s tail are called ocelli. These often come in bright blue, blue-green, and green colors.
- While the tail is mainly used to attract peahens, the eyespots also create an illusion that can scare predators away.
- Peacocks are among the fastest birds on land, with a running speed of up to 10 miles per hour.
While they are known for gracefully parading their tails on the ground, there’s no denying that these birds can fly. Their wingspan is still big enough to lift their bulky bodies and lengthy tails, although only at a limited altitude and distance. And although they do not look like they’re flying as effortlessly as other birds, there’s no denying that peacocks can fly.
List of Sources
Peafowl (Peacocks). South Gloucestershire Council.
Dakin, R., et al. (2016). Biomechanics of the Peacock’s Display: How Feather Structure and Resonance Influence Multimodal Signaling. PloS one.
Common peafowl. Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute.
Peacock, E. (2014). Why do peacocks have such unusual tail feathers? PennState.