PEACOCK

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PEACOCK (pavo, Lin., &c); bill naked at the base, convex above, thickened, bent down towards the tip; nostrils _ open; cheeks partially denuded ; feathers1 of the rump elongated, broad, capable of being expanded like a fan, and ocellated; tail wedgeshaped, consisting of eighteen feathers; feet furnished with four toes; the tarsi with a conical spur; the head crested.P. cristatus, Lin., &c. ; crested, or common peacock. To recite the numerous details of the markings of this splendid bird would require along description, which, after all, would convey but a faint idea of the "'original. There are, however, few of our readers who are not sufficiently familiar with the rich attire of the living specimen to dispense with a minute, enumeration of its changeable hues. Like other domesticated birds, it exhibits several varieties. The ordinary length of the peacock, from the tip of the bill to that of the fullgrown tail, is about four feet. The female is rather less; and her train is not only very short, but destitute of those beauties which ornament the male; her crest, too, is shorter, and her whole plumage partakes of a cinereous hue ; her throat ana neck are green, and the spots on the side of the head are larger than those of the male. The females of this species, however, like those of some other birds, have sometimes been known, when past breeding, to assume the male attire. In a state of nature, the peahen breeds once a year, and lays, it is alleged, f" jm twentyfive to thirty eggs, of a whitish hue, speckled with dusky. In colder climates, and when domesticated, the number of eggs seldom exceeds five or six, and the hen sits from twentyfive to thirty days, according to the temperature of the country and season. When pleased or delighted, the cock erects his tail, unfolds his feathers, and frequently turns slowly round, as if to catch the sunbeams in every direction, accompanying this movement with a hollow murmuring. At oth er times, his cry is very disagreeable, and often repeated, especially before rain. Every year he sheds his plumes; and courts the most obscure retreats till the returning spring renews his lustre. The young acquire the perfect brilliancy of their plumage in their third year; but, in cold climates, they require attention in rearing, and should be fed on grass, meal, cheese* crumbs of bread, and insects, until they are six or seven months old, when they will eat wheat and various sorts of grain, like other gallinaceous birds; but the peacock is, in this respect, extremely capricious, and there is hardly any kind of food which it will not, at times, covet and pursue. According to Aristotle, it lives about twentyfive years; but Willoughby and others allege that it is capable of existing for near a century. When full grown, it is not readily injured by cold. Though long naturalized in Europe, it is of Eastern origin, occurring in the greatest profusion in the neighborhood of the Ganges, and in the extensive plains of India, particularly in Guzerat, Cambay, the coast of Malabar, the kingdom of Siam, and the island of Java. As early as the days of Solomon, they were imported into Judea by the fleets which that monarch equipped on the Red sea. From India they were brought into Asia Minor, and subsequently into the isle of Samos, where they were formerly much multiplied, and consecrated to Juno, but from which they have now wholly disappeared. In Greece, they still brought a high price in the time of Pericles. They were introduced into Rome towards the decline of the republic ; and the orator Hortensius was, according to Pliny, the first who had them presented at table, at a feast which he gave to the college of augurs. The emperors took a pride in collecting large dishes of the heads or brains of peacocks, which seem to have had nothing to recommend them but the enormous expense at which they were provided. In modern times, the young birds only are reckoned fit for the table. The Europeans have introduced them into Africa and America.P. chinquis, Tern.; pavo bicalcaratus, and pavo Thibetanus, Lin. ; peacock pheasant, iris peacock, Thibet peacock. These singular birds, which are rather larger than a pheasant, and highly elegant and beautiful, inhabit China and the mountains which separate Hindoostan from Thibet. According to Sonnerat, they likewise occur in Malacca. The most remarkable circumstance in their natural history is that of the tarsi being armed with several spurs, which vary in number from two to six, and frequently the same bird has a different number on each leg. Another curious fact is that the tail is composed of two distinct ranges of long feathers, the undermost being the true tail. These feathers are capable of being erected, and displayed like a fan when the bird is agitated, but at other, times they remain in a horizontal position. The plumage of the female is less brilliant than that ~f the male, and the tail shorter. In the natural state, this species is not very wild, and it readily becomes accustomed to confinement, and propagates with facility.