What Is The Difference Between Peacocks and Peahens?

What Is The Difference Between Peacocks and Peahens?

It can get a little confusing to know what the difference between peacocks and peahens is, especially because these names are often used interchangeably. But here are the differences (and some of what is the same), about these animals! 

What is the difference between peacocks and peahens? 

Both peacocks and peahens are actually the same animals, they just have different genders! If you were to go to a zoo or simply just to picture a peacock in your mind, you will likely see a bird with bright blue and green feathers, but these are actually only the male members of this family of birds! 

Peacocks and peahens are the same bird and this bird is called the peafowl. Peacocks are male peafowl while peahens are female peafowl. And the young peafowl are called peachicks!  

Peafowl are all part of the scientific order Galliformes, which also includes similar birds such as pheasants and chickens (interestingly enough, a male chicken is called a cock, a female chicken is called a hen, and baby chickens are called chicks).

Peacock vs Peahen
Peacock vs Peahen

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The scientific family that peafowl belongs to is known as Phasianidae. There are three different types of peafowl that are members of the Phasianidae family – the Indian (or blue) peafowl, the Java (or green) peafowl, and the Congo peafowl. 

Now, that we’ve learned that peacocks and peahens are the same animals, just of opposite sexes, let’s look at what else differentiates them. One big difference between peacocks and peahens is their appearances. 

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Peacock vs Peahen Differences
Appearance

Male feathers

Peacocks all have their own unique look with tail feathers that are unique to them.

These feathers all have colors, patterns, and special eyespots that are distinct to that specific peacock. Peacocks use their flashy tail feathers to attract a mate. When a peacock opens its feathers and fans them out completely, they form a full semicircle.  

Peacock displaying its feathers
Peacock displaying its feathers

During mating season, peahens will look at the tails of potential suiters. Then she will decide which peacock is the most suitable mate for her. Scientists have noticed that peahens usually choose a peacock that has a big tail with lots of eyespots (which are also known as ornamental ocellus).

But a peacock who is too confident in his tail may scare off a peahen. But a peacock that has an extremely attractive tail may attract several loyal peahen suitors. 

Female feathers

Peahens have a completely different appearance than their male counterparts. Peahens have a mostly brown body, with a white belly, a green neck, and a head crest that is similar to a peacock’s. The tail feathers on a peahen are duller and have fewer colors and only about half the number of feathers that peacocks have.

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Usually, their feathers are brown, gray, or cream. Even though they do not have the bold and colorful feathers that peacocks have, their duller feathers give them an advantage – the dull feathers are easier to camouflage in the wild which helps them to protect themselves (and their babies) from predators. 

Additionally, peahens cannot open up their feathers up the same way peacocks can – they are missing the long feathers that the peacocks put on display.  

Peahen on roof in rural India
Peahen on roof in rural India

Size

Size is another thing that differentiates between peacocks and peahens. Peacocks are larger than peafowls. The body of a peacock is usually about three to four and a half feet long and they usually weigh about nine to thirteen pounds. Plus, their tail feathers can add an additional four to five feet to their size!

On the other hand, peahens are usually only about two and a half to three and a half feet long and they rarely weigh more than nine pounds. 

Peacocks and peahens also have different personalities. Peahens may live with other females, but peacocks usually prefer to live a more solitary life (although young, immature peacocks will live together in a “bachelor-like” group).

Raising chicks

Peahens will also do all of the raising of the peachicks completely on their own – peacocks have zero involvement in their offspring’s lives. After mating, a peafowl will build a nest and incubate her eggs on her own.  

Sound

Peacocks are also much noisier than peahens. During the mating season, which is from March to July, peacocks will make a loud calling sound. This call can last from sunrise until sunset, but their favorite time to call out is at the break of dawn and in the evening.

The call has been compared to a loud, high-pitched cat’s meow. Peahens do make vocalizations, but they just are not as loud as peacocks. Peafowl can make a total of twelve different vocalizations. 

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In what ways are peacocks and peahens similar? 

Even though there are some notable differences between peacocks and peahens, there are some similarities between them as well. For example, for peafowl, it does not matter what their gender is when it comes to their diet!

Peafowl are omnivores, so they will eat both animal and plant products. All peafowl like eating insects such as ants, grubs, millipedes, crickets, termites, and scorpions. They will also eat some small animals such as lizards, frogs, snails, rats, and mice.

Plant-wise, they like eating grains, like corn and wheat, vegetables such as beans, peas, tomatoes, and peppers, and fruits including blackberries, raspberries, and grapes.  

Peachicks will eat the same diet – peahens will teach their young how to hunt and forage for food. In captivity, peafowl are often fed livestock feed or pet food with concentrated grains. Captive peacocks or peahens will usually also be fed fruit, vegetables, and grains to supplement their diet.  

Also, both peacocks and peahens can fly! According to National Geographic, peafowl are considered to be the largest flying bird in the world (if you count the long tail of a peacock). Peafowl usually only fly for short distances – they will start by running, then they will hop, and then they will finally take off into the air.

These birds usually only fly if they need to get away from predators, but they can reach flight speeds of about 10 miles per hour. 

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Where in the wild do peafowl live? 

Peacock in Sri Lanka
Peacock in Sri Lanka

In the wild, peafowl can be found in multiple parts of the world. The blue peafowl lives in India and Sri Lanka, the green peafowl lives in Burma and Java, and the Congo peafowl lives in the rainforests of Africa. All of these types of peafowl can be found in open forests. At night, they will rest high up in trees to stay away from predators.  

Who are the predators of peafowls? 

Peafowl have some natural predators such as tigers, raccoons, mongoose, and wild dogs and cats. The biggest threat to peafowls are humans though. Peacocks are especially at risk because of poaching for their beautiful feathers. Peacocks and peahens also risk hunting from humans in their native habitat.  

Additionally, habitat loss has led to a large decrease in the peafowl population – mining, timber harvesting, and agriculture in their habitat cause these animals to have fewer of the resources that they need (food, water, and shelter). 

With this being said, blue peafowl and Congo peafowl both have populations that are considered to be stable and are of the least concern. This is not the case for the green peafowl though – these birds were put on the list of endangered species in 2008, and have remained there ever since.  

Who are peafowls related to? 

Since peafowl belong to the Phasianidae family, they are related to other large ground-living birds, such as chickens, turkeys, partridges, and quails. Their closest relative is the pheasant though. 

Ringneck Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
Ringneck Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

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When do peachicks leave their mothers? 

Peahens usually lay about five to nine eggs every year, with their breeding season being in the spring. It takes about a month for the peahen’s eggs to hatch. Then she will teach her offspring everything they need to know.

Peachicks will stay with their mother for at least the first two months of their lives, and then they will go off on their own. A peahen will be able to start mating when she is about a year old, but a peacock cannot mate until he is about three years old. 

How long do peafowl live? 

In the wild, peafowl usually live about twenty years. In captivity, they can live to be up to forty years old! 

Do peacocks lose their feathers? 

At the end of every mating season, male peafowl lose their feathers. This process is pretty quick – peacocks can lose their entire tail of feathers in only a week. Sometimes, a few feathers will stubbornly hang on as the rest of the feathers are dropping.

Once a peacock loses all of their feathers (once they have completed the molting), they are no longer fertile. Their feathers will grow back the following year.  

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Do peafowls mate for life? 

Peafowls are polygynous. This means that a male will likely mate with several females in a season, and then find different partners during the next season. In captivity, peafowl have been known to form monogamous pairs.  

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Grace Tynemouth

Grace Tynemouth is a freelance writer and an avid animal lover. In her free time, she loves playing with her dog Vegas, reading, and watching movies.