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Green Peafowl Picture

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Green Peafowl
Pavo muticus imperator Conservation status
Vulnerable (IUCN 3.1) Scientific classification Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Genus: Pavo
Binomial name Pavo muticus
Linnaeus, 1766 Subspecies
  • P. m. muticus
    Linnaeus, 1766
  • P. m. spicifer
    Shaw, 1804
  • P. m. imperator
    Delacour, 1949

The Green Peafowl, Pavo muticus is a large Galliform bird that is found in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. The familiar Indian Peafowl diverged from the Green Peafowl approximately 70,000 years ago.

Description Adult Female Head and Upper Neck

The sexes of Green Peafowl are quite similar in appearance, especially in the field. During most of the year, when the males have no visible trains, it is quite difficult to distinguish the sexes. Both sexes have tall pointed crests, and are long-legged, heavy-winged and long-tailed in silhouette. Seen from a distance, they are generally dark coloured birds with pale vermillion or buff coloured primaries which are quite visible in their peculiar flight which has been described[where?] as a true flapping flight with little gliding that one associates with Galliform birds.

The males of the subspecies imperator and spicifer are overall bluish-green, the former having a metallic-green breast, neck, wing-coverts and outer webs of secondaries, whereas the latter has a duller, bluer breast and neck, and more black on the wing-coverts and outer web of secondaries. Compared to these, Nominate muticus is overall more golden-green and has less blue on the neck and breast. Considerable variation exists in plumage of neck and breast which may be linked with age and sex.

The male of the Green Peafowl have a loud call of ki-wao, which is often repeated. The female has a loud aow-aa call with an emphasis on the first syllable. The males call from their roost sites at dawn and dusk. Some forms of Green Peafowl have divergent trachea morphology and this has an impact on their voices.

The Indian Peafowl has a much louder voice than all but the imperator because of the special apparatus that accentuate volume. Green Peafowl are noted ventriloquists however and make many low vibrational vocalizations and even piercing whistle-like shrieks in some forms.

Green Peafowl are large birds, one of the largest living Galliforms in terms of overall length and wingspan, though rather lighter-bodied than the Wild Turkey. The male grows up to 3 meters (10 ft) long, including the "train" and weighs up to 5 kg (11 lbs). The female is 1.1 meter (3.5 ft) long and weighs about 1.1 kg (2.4 lbs). It has large wingspan of approximately 1.2 m (4 ft). Green Peafowl are unusual amongst Galliforms in their capacity for sustained flight. They are documented flying over the ocean to roost on islets off the coast of Java and on islands in large lakes in Yunnan. Some of the islets and islands are more than 24 km (50 mi) from shore. All known genera of peafowl and allies, Rheinartia, Afropavo, Pavo and Argusianus, are known to perch on emergent trees which tower over the canopy of the rainforest or tropical savannah. Pheasants and junglefowl do not perch above the canopy. Peafowls are obliged to fly to and from their emergent trees which form territorial "anchors" for adult males and their social units. They will also move by wing to forage in areas some distance from their favorite roosts. Subsequently, the morphology of the Peafowl wing is quite different from pheasants.

Distribution and habitat

The Green Peafowl was widely distributed in Southeast Asia in the past from northern Myanmar and southern China, extending through Laos, and Thailand into Vietnam, Cambodia, Peninsular Malaysia and the islands of Java. The ranges have reduced with habitat destruction and hunting.

Green Peafowls are found in a wide range of habitats including primary and secondary forest, both tropical and subtropical, as well as evergreen and deciduous. They may also be found amongst bamboo, on grasslands, savannas, scrub and farmland edge. In Vietnam, the preferred habitat was found to be dry deciduous forest close to water and away from human disturbance. Proximity to water appears to be an important factor.


The peafowl are a genetically isolated group without close living relatives.

Following the advice of his Hong Kong bird dealer, World Pheasant Association founder and ornithologist, Jean Delacour recongized three races of Green Peafowl. Today most authorities recognize these three:

  • P. m. muticus (nominate). Found in Java. Was also known from the Malay Peninsula from the northern part extending south to Kedah.
  • P. m. imperator. From Burma to Thailand, southern China and Indochina.
  • P. m. spicifer. Found in northwestern Burma. Formerly also north-eastern India and Bangladesh.

Some authors have suggested that the population found in Yunnan may be yet another race.

While peafowl are often considered members of the pheasant family, recent molecular work has shown that the Phasianidae is paraphyletic, and that peafowl are not closely related to pheasants, grouse or turkeys. They are distantly related to junglefowl and francolins however, and share a common ancestor with Coturnix quail and Alectoris Rock Partridges. The World Pheasant Association of Germany already lists peafowl as a distinct family.

Green Peafowls are found today in Southeast Asia in mainland Burma, Yunnan, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and on the island of Java in Indonesia. They are curiously absent from both Sumatra and Borneo. Records from northeastern India have been questioned and old records are possibly of feral birds.


The Green Peafowl is a forest bird which nests on the ground laying 3 to 6 eggs.

It has been widely believed without quantification that the Green Peafowl is polygynous, the male having no parental responsibilities whatsoever. It has been reported that some males are very solitary, trying to mate with every female that enters his territory, while females gather in harems.

However, these are only presuppositions based upon the behaviors of captive or semi-captive Indian Peafowl (not Green Peafowl) which are facultatively polygynous, and from observations of highly territorial male Green Peafowl guarding nest sites. The notion that the male is polygynous also conflicts with observations in the field and captivity; pairs left alone with no human interaction have been observed to be strongly monogamous. The close similarity between both sexes also suggests a different breeding system in contrast to that of the Indian Peafowl. Thus, some authors have suggested that the harems seen in the field are juvenile birds and that males are not promiscuous. Indeed, it may be that the males are more highly invested in the long-term care of their progeny than the female. Green Peafowl have been observed in Java in multiple generation helper systems where sexually immature bird help their parents look after their younger siblings. This has also been documented in captive Afropavo and Argusianus, and even in the facultatively polygamous Indian Peafowl.

They usually spend time on or near the ground in tall grasses and sedges. Like other peafowl, the Green Peafowl love to wade and forage for food in the shallows for a good portion of each day. Family units roost in trees at a height of 10-15 m. The diet consists mainly of fruits, invertebrates, reptiles, and other small animals. As with the other member of its genus, the Green Peafowl can even hunt venomous snakes, making them useful for pest control. Ticks and termites, flower petals, buds leaves and berries are favorite foods of adult peafowl. Frogs and other aquatic small animals probably make up the bulk of the diet of growing birds.

Green Peafowl occupy a similar ecological niche as the unrelated Secretary Bird, seriamas, and bustards. That is to say, Green Peafowl hunt for small animals on the ground in tropical savannah. Like these other predatory bird species, Green Peafowl are monogamous and enjoy prolonged relationships with their offspring. All these cursorial hunters display delayed maturity, are long-legged, heavy-winged, with prominent crests and long, broad tails.


Their natural predators include large cats; the Clouded Leopard, Leopard, Tiger, Jungle Cat and Fishing Cat prey on adult birds. As Green Peafowl are so large with both sexes armed with powerful metatarsal spurs, many predators ignore peafowl. For example birds of prey which specialize on junglefowl and pheasants routinely ignore peafowl. The iridescent plumage of the Green Peafowl may be a highly specialized form of crypsis that is useful in open forests and near water. Most predatory species like Leopards, Tigers, wild dogs, civets, owls and hawk-eagles that have been documented hunting peafowl do not have colour vision.

During the long weeks of incubation and chick rearing close to the ground, mortality is at its height. For this reason field biologists familiar with peafowl believe that the nest defense strategies of the Green Peafowl have evolved. The most serious enemies of the nest are probably reptilian, monitor lizards and snakes for example, but civets and non obligatory birds like crows are probably also important nest predators. Adult and subadult progeny help defend the nest site and foraging territories against intruders. Green Peafowl have also been documented attacking young Leopards and an adult Fishing Cat.

Siamese form of Pavo muticus imperator


Due to hunting and a reduction in extent and quality of habitat, the Green Peafowl is evaluated as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is listed on Appendix II of CITES. The world population has declined rapidly and the species no longer occurs in many areas of its past distribution. The population in the wild was estimated to be about 5,000 to 10,000 individuals around 1995.

Hybridisation with the Indian Peafowl may also be a cause for the decline of the Green Peafowl, damaging the genetic stock of captive birds. Certain birds both in captivity which are thought to be pure Green Peafowl are really hybrids, known by some as "spauldings" or "spaldings". The subspecies of Green Peafowl have also been heavily mixed in captivity.

Although all subspecies are declining, P. m. spicifer and P. m. imperator have not declined as much as P. m. muticus. Some breeders mistakenly believe that the race spicifer is extinct, although this is not true. Nonetheless, this subspecies is also declining rapidly. The race imperator may still be common (though declining) in isolated parts of its range.

The nominate race lived in Malaysia, as well as the Isthmus of Kra, but had become extinct in the wild in the 1960s.

In 2005, The Star reported that successful reintroductions were being made in Malaysia by the World Pheasant Association (WPA).[unreliable source?]

However, the reintroductions have not been without controversy. The publication stated that the Javan and Malay races were genetically identical, which has been widely accepted by the scientific community. However, some do not believe the forms are identical, leading to concerns that the wrong form of Green Peafowl was introduced. Another statement by certain publications is that the birds introduced were the nominate muticus. Photos and video footage of some of the reintroduced birds in Malaysia have been claimed as being spicifer.




Hybrid between imperator and spicifer, at Bronx Zoo

Malaysian Pavo muticus muticus at Ueno Zoo

Pavo muticus imperator at Taipei Zoo

Video of the Pavo muticus at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Local names
  • Lao: ??? (???)
  • Thai: ??? (?yuu?)
  • Malay: Merak Hijau.

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