Indian (Blue) Peafowl (Pavo cristatus)

On a recent visit to Tule Springs with the Heritage Park Senior Facility hiking group on 03/24/2011, we were all privy to the courting ritual of the park’s only leucistic white peafowl. Though many think it is an albino peacock, it's technically a white peacock which is a genetic variant of the Indian Blue Peafowl. Off and on, this gorgeous display went on for more than an hour. Considering how windy it was, I was amazed that he could even keep its fan-like tail plumage spread. It was truly breathtaking to watch. Scroll down for more info and pictures.
Description: The Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus), sometimes called a Blue Peafowl, is a large and brightly colored bird of the pheasant family native to South Asia, and is in fact, the national bird of India. Predominantly blue, the male peacock has a fan-like crest of spatula-tipped wire-like feathers and is best known for the long train made up of elongated upper-tail covert feathers which bear colourful eyespots. These stiff and elongated feathers are raised into a fan and quivered in a display during courtship.

In contrast, the female (above right) lacks the train, has a greenish lower neck and has a much duller brown plumage. They generally forage for berries and grains but will also prey on snakes, lizards, and small rodents. They forage on the ground, moving in small groups and will usually try to avoid contact by escaping on foot through undergrowth, thereby avoiding flying. They are know however, to fly up into tall trees to roost. Their loud squawk-like calls make them easy to detect and often indicate the presence of a predator or perceived danger.

Within the plumage of a peacock lies a complex architecture that's continuously changing color. Though the colors of a peacock are revered, it can be just as stunning without them, as in the leucistic white peafowl. Often referred to as an albino peacock, it is nothing of the sort. Leucism is a condition characterized by reduced pigmentation in animals and humans. Unlike albinism, it is caused by a reduction in all types of skin pigment, not just melanin. Pigment colorization in birds comes from three different groups: melanins, carotenoids, and porphyrines. Melanins occur as tiny specs of color in both the skin and feathers, and ranges from the darkest black to pale yellows. Carotenoids are plant-based and are acquired only by eating plants or by eating something that ate a plant. They produce bright yellows and brilliant oranges. The last pigment group, Porphyrins, produces a range of colors including pink, browns, reds, and greens. Another important factor is feather structure. Each feather consists of thousands of flat branches, each with minuscule bowl-shaped indentations. At the bottom of each indentation is a lamellae (thin plate-like layers), that acts like a prism, splitting light.