Since ancient times, peacocks have been kept as domestic ornamental birds and were represented in Chinese and Japanese art. In some Asian countries, these birds are even considered sacred and held under strict religious protection. Because of their stunning plumage display during courtship, these birds are said to the favorite of Hera, the mythical goddess of marriage. One of the most splendid of the peacock species inhabits the pristine forests and coastal lowlands of the island of Palawan in Central Philippines. The Palawan peacocks, true pheasants, are known for their huge vividly colored train.
In the presence of a peahen, Palawan peacocks spread their train into a magnificent fan which consists of filmy upper tail coverts supported by stiff undertail feathers of iridescent blue-green with purple reflections bordered by black and gray. Their beaks of this pride of Palawan are black, and they have a small metallic blue crested head with white patches above and below the eyes, with fairly long unfeathered brown legs with two spurs on each leg.
Palawan peacocks have a strong and labored flight. They perch in trees at night, but nest on the ground feeding on both animal and vegetable matter like leaves, nuts, insects and worms. In the wild, Palawan peacocks are wary and shy and seldom observed in their forest habitat, but they also adapt and breed well in captivity. The peahen usually lays two buff white eggs which she incubates for 19 days. If not naturally raised, aviary keepers will find it difficult to feed the chicks because in the wild, the peahen feeds her young by offering morsels of food directly from her beak. In just a couple of days, the chicks will be able to fend for themselves and find food on the Palawan forest floor. And in about ten weeks, they will be able to survive on their own.
While Palawan peacocks become sexually mature after one year, they can only be strong enough to compete for peahens and breed after they reach three years. When it comes to courting the partner of its choice, this beautiful bird has a unique characteristic that closely resembles that of human beings. During courtship, the Palawan peacocks’ offering of tidbits of food to the peahen while strutting around with their fantastic display of colorful plumage is akin to a man dressing up with his Sunday best to take his girl out on an evening of fine dining.
Logging and mining activities on the island of Palawan that encroach on their natural habitat, as well as capture for trade are major factors that contribute to the population decline of Palawan peacocks. Today, the birds are listed as endangered species. While the St. Paul’s Subterranean National Park in Palawan has been set aside as a refuge for these beautiful endangered birds, stronger initiatives must be taken to protecting their habitat. Otherwise, these magnificent birds of Hera will vanish forever from the beautiful island of Palawan.