animal world

Everything you wanted to know about peafowl sex, by a researcher who’s spent a decade studying it

Jessica Yorzinski says that peahens look at a peacock’s legs and base of its tail while choosing a mate.

On Wednesday, on his last day on the job before retiring, Rajasthan High Court judge MC Sharma decided to give India something to remember him with. Advocating for the cow to be made the national animal, the judge gave this explanation for why the peacock is India’s national bird. “The peacock is a lifelong brahmachari” or celibate, said the judge. “It never has sex with the peahen. The peahen gets pregnant after swallowing the tears of the peacock.”

The resulting memes nearly broke the internet. But experts who have actually spent years studying the mating behaviour of peafowl were slightly shocked. Among them was Jessica Yorzinzki, assistant professor at the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences of Texas A&M University, US. She spoke to Scroll.in about her work.


Since I’ve been studying the mating behaviour of peafowl for the past ten years, it is definitely shocking to hear that statement. We all need to get on the same page of what is going on in the mating system of these birds.

There is no scientific validity in the claim that peafowl do not copulate.

There are many scientists that study the mating behaviour of animals. I particularly studied them in the peafowl. I just used it as a model system for understanding more generally how animals select their mates. I studied a captive population of about 40 birds in the United States. Several years ago, I visited Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, to study peafowl in the wild.

The reason I starting studying this is to primarily learn about animal behaviour, the decisions they make, what are the factors that influence how they choose their mating partners, how they deal with predators and so on.

Peafowl, in particular, have an unusual mating system. They are called a lekking species, a certain type of mating system where a female has the choice of the type of male she wants to mate with. If the female is not interested in the male, nothing can happen. The males set up display areas where they show off their feathers and the females have complete choice of which males they want to mate with.

This means that, generally speaking, females mate every season, and they mate with one male, multiple males or the same male multiple times. So they’re definitely engaging in a lot of copulatory behaviour.

In one of my studies, by attaching two small eye trackers on the peahen, I tried to find on what the females were looking at in a male while choosing the peacock they wanted to mate with. I found that they were actually directing their gaze towards the bottom portion of their bodies –
their legs and the base of their tails, rather than their head or brightly coloured feathers.

The males, however, can have a different story. There are a few successful males that get most of the copulation during a season. But some of the males who are not as attractive to the female may not get much copulation during the season if the females don’t choose them as a mate. The peacock cannot force himself on the peahen. The male, as everyone knows, displays his feathers and tries to persuade the female to mate with him. If she does not want to she will just wander on and check out the next male.

It is important that information is accurately portrayed about a species. We don’t want to perpetuate information that does not fit with the natural history of the animals that we’re talking about.

Credit: Jessica Yorzinski via Facebook
Credit: Jessica Yorzinski via Facebook

As told to Vinita Govindarajan.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Get ready for an 80-hour shopping marathon

Here are some tips that’ll help you take the lead.

Starting 16th July at 4:00pm, Flipkart will be hosting its Big Shopping Days sale over 3 days (till 19th July). This mega online shopping event is just what a sale should be, promising not just the best discounts but also buying options such as no cost EMIs, buyback guarantee and product exchanges. A shopping festival this big, packed with deals that you can’t get yourself to refuse, can get overwhelming. So don’t worry, we’re here to tell you why Big Shopping Days is the only sale you need, with these helpful hints and highlights.

Samsung Galaxy On Nxt (64 GB)

A host of entertainment options, latest security features and a 13 MP rear camera that has mastered light come packed in sleek metal unibody. The sale offers an almost 40% discount on the price. Moreover, there is a buyback guarantee which is part of the deal.

Original price: Rs. 17,900

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 10,900

Samsung 32 inches HD Ready LED TV

Another blockbuster deal in the sale catalogue is this audio and visual delight. Apart from a discount of 41%, the deal promises no-cost EMIs up to 12 months.

Original price: Rs. 28,890

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 10,900

Intel Core I3 equipped laptops

These laptops will make a thoughtful college send-off gift or any gift for that matter. Since the festive season is around the corner, you might want to make use of this sale to bring your A-game to family festivities.

Original price: Rs. 25,590

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 21,900

Fashion

If you’ve been planning a mid-year wardrobe refresh, Flipkart’s got you covered. The Big Shopping Days offer 50% to 80% discount on men’s clothing. You can pick from a host of top brands including Adidas and Wrangler.

With more sale hours, Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days sale ensures we can spend more time perusing and purchasing these deals. Apart from the above-mentioned products, you can expect up to 80% discount across categories including mobiles, appliances, electronics, fashion, beauty, home and furniture.

Features like blockbuster deals that are refreshed every 8 hours along with a price crash, rush hour deals from 4-6 PM on the starting day and first-time product discounts makes this a shopping experience that will have you exclaiming “Sale ho to aisi! (warna na ho)”

Set your reminders and mark your calendar, Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days starts 16th July, 4 PM and end on 19th July. To participate in 80 hours of shopping madness, click here.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Flipkart and not by the Scroll editorial team.