Peacocks are famous for their unique plumage, colored heads, and vocalization, but did you know there are different sizes and color combinations in peacocks?
The Congo peafowl is one of the rare breeds of peacock that dates back to 1936. While this breed doesn’t have outstanding color displays like the Indian and Java species, it does have a unique blue color on its upper body and is characterized by emerald green wings.
Read on to learn more about the Congo peafowl, including its history, unique traits, and what makes it different from other peafowl species.
The Congo peafowl, also known as Afropavo congensis, is native to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
To begin with, the Congo peafowl was commonly mistaken for an immature Asian peafowl. It wasn’t until 1936, when Dr. James Chapin studied stuffed peafowls in the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Belgium, that the rare species got its name.
Dr. James discovered that this breed had the characteristics of both the guinea fowl and peafowl.
The Congo peafowl belongs to the Phasianidae family, which means that it shares lots of characteristics with turkeys, partridges, pheasants, and grouse. Congo peafowls are the only pheasants native to Congo and the whole of Africa.
A male Congo peafowl can measure up to 38 inches long and can weigh between 6 and 11 pounds.
Congo peacocks have short tail feathers and don’t have eyespots. But their plumage has hints of metallic green and deep blue.
The bird’s gray feet and bare, red throat are also some outstanding characteristics. The Congo peacock also features elongated, vertical, white hair-like feathers on its head.
The female peafowl is mostly chestnut brown but has black plumage on her abdomen. Some peahens may have a short, chestnut-brown crest and a metallic green back. Females can be around 24 inches long.
A Congo peafowl is considered a diurnal creature (active during the day). Although it can fly, it can’t do so for a long time.
These birds prefer living in small groups but will split into pairs during the mating season.
Congo peafowls live in a group of three to five and only meet occasionally to mate. During the breeding season, Congo peacocks spread their wings and tail feathers like Indian peacocks.
A Congo peacock draws in a female by strutting, bowing, and offering food. That is one of the ways to show that he can provide for her. The breed is monogamous, and the male becomes sexually mature and ready to mate at the age of three.
A female Congo peafowl (peahen) takes a year to reach sexual maturity.
The female lays 2-5 dark brown eggs in a hole created in the ground. A unique characteristic about this bird is that in captivity, it prefers to lay its eggs in nest boxes or on high platforms that are 4 yards above the ground.
Note that the female constructs the nest during the laying season. She then incubates the eggs for 28 days. The male watches over the eggs during this time and also helps to raise the young peafowls.
Both the male and female help raise the chicks. Then the young ones can forage for food some days after hatching. Congo peahens can produce up to three broods of chicks yearly.
Both the male and female peafowls create a duet that works as a location call or as a way to bond. However, the male species has a high-pitched calling noise, while the female produces low noise.
Habitat of the Congo Peafowl
The Congo peafowl is commonly found in the rainforests of the Congo River Basin in Central DRC. Although most of these peacocks are found in the lowland rainforest, the species prefers certain forest areas like high canopies, between streams, or where there’s a lot of debris in the forest.
However, due to forest destruction and more people concentrating on farming, you’re likely to come across these peafowls among artificial clearings and crops.
The peacocks live harmoniously with baboons and eat fruit from similar trees and shrubs.
Distribution of the Congo Peafowl
Another thing to note is that the forest of Congo is broken up into patches. Congo peafowls move from one patch to another. The patch size can vary from hundreds of acres to thousands of acres. Congo peafowls love to stay close to forest patches as that’s their food source.
Congo peafowls are difficult to come across due to their habitat and location.
Nonetheless, the Congo peafowl is believed to be omnivorous and feeds on seeds, fruit, insects, plant parts, and small invertebrates. They can eat frogs, lizards, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and snails.
A young Congo peafowl chick mainly consumes insects, which deliver proteins that aid in growth.
Interestingly, the diet of these birds in Salonga National Park is much less diverse than it is in the primary forest.
The Congo peafowl has a lifespan of 15-20 years.
The male peafowl has bright plumage and fanned-out feathers to attract mates. However, the females have green and brown feathers that enable them to camouflage with the rainforest floor.
Furthermore, peafowls have large spurs on each leg to fight off competition. Like most birds, peafowls have eyes on the sides of their heads, a characteristic that gives them a wide field of view to watch out for any predators.
Congo peafowls can be raised for their eggs and meat. Their eggs are bigger than those of chickens with a slightly different flavor and texture. Additionally, their meat is aromatic.
Raising these birds on a farm also creates an appealing visual addition due to their bright colors.
Though it’s a rare breed, you can find the bird in most zoos.
The Congo peafowl faces the biggest threat from people in their environment.
Hunting affects the peafowl’s population. Poachers capture these peacocks in snares and collect their eggs for sale. Some birds are also caught in snares left for other animals.
Habitat loss (forest clearance) is another factor causing the endangerment of this species.
Mining is also a cause of concern, as the establishment of mining camps led to a need for food for the workers. That created the need for hunting and habitat destruction that has resulted in the peafowl’s population decline.
Though a rare species, Congo peafowls are the only true pheasant in Africa with characteristics of both guinea fowl and peafowl. You can spot these peafowls in the Salonga National Park in Congo or visit the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium, where they are kept as part of captive breeding programs.