I seem to have an absent-minded peahen nesting in my yard. I've searched the web to see if I can find out about nesting habits of peacocks, but with no luck. So I have been doing a photo documented diary of this event, including my speculations and guesses about her behavior, and occasional videos.
I live north of Fort Worth, Texas, and have a WILD peahen nesting on the ground in my yard next to my fence where I park my truck. The nest was found Saturday, May 18, 2002, after my neighbor mowed and did some weedeating, and it had one egg in it.
Since starting this diary, I have found out the answers to my original questions and a few more tidbits.
Check out this peacock page. It is about the Indian Blue Peacock (Pavo cristatus).
How many eggs will eventually be in that nest, total?
...Up to 12, but 4-6 is average for Pavo cristatus
Will any of them hatch with this strange sitting pattern?
...They should, but there could be some mortality. Here's a good description of what goes on when eggs are laid at intervals.
Will large hail from severe storms harm her or her eggs in this unprotected area?
... No clue...yet.
When will these eggs hatch?
... Incubation is 27-28 days, and some say that the count starts when the last egg is laid, and others say that is the incubation period of EACH egg, if the species engages in asynchronous incubation. First egg was May 18, possibly May 17. Last egg was May 26.
Stay tuned to the continuing saga as it happens!
Here is where she put her nest...right next to my driveway which is the most human-active area on my property. I have 6 acres and 2 hedgerows of hackberry trees, nicely secluded, overgrown, cool and safe from hail. You'd think she could have found a quieter place for her nest. Or maybe she just likes humans?
...and stupid me didn't take a picture of the one egg in her nest because I didn't think she'd return after that rather rude disruption of her originally overgrown area.
I've been told by one neighbor (the one in whose trees the majority of the flock lives) that he sees abandoned nests all over every year, but rarely any babies. Another neighbor sees babies every year, but has no idea where the nests are...
No activity. No bird. Dead nest? With all the human activity and mowing noises on BOTH sides of the fence it doesn't surprise me.
I didn't think to check the nest at this time, either. I felt it best that I pretend that I don't know her nest is there.
The hen didn't show up again until late this morning. She sat the nest facing north for most of the day, getting up a few times to peck for food around the area, but returned to the nest and sat facing north again.
Then this evening, she disappeared...and I thought I'd go look at the nest after all. And I see she left another egg! After staring at the nest for a while, I determined that the first egg is the one on the left, the 2nd one is on the right. My criteria? The newest egg just looks cleaner.
She's apparently not fazed by the activity of the vehicles, or with me wandering around, although I'm trying very hard not to disturb her by going around the front of the truck rather than the back to get in and out. But, this wild flock is fairly used to people, though they are not tame. They have been in this area for nearly 10 years, and there are about 30-40 in the flock, scattered around the neighborhood, much to the dismay of some folks, and to the delight of others, like myself.
Tuesday morning, there she is again. All day long she sits. Evening...she's vanished...but left yet another egg. The new egg is in the top right of the photo, the first one is still on the left and the second one is now below.
She is facing south today and appears to be panting in the picture, which was taken with a zoom setting, to avoid getting too close.
Is she planning on staying, or does she keep returning to sit on dead eggs out of habit? Is she just using the nest as a place to drop eggs, and then moves on to re-join the flock when rested? Or does she get impatient when the new egg doesn't hatch immediately and just leaves out of boredom?
She's seeming more and more like an ADHD bird...forgetful, not able to sit still for very long, impatient and easily frustrated. Sounds like me...
Today it's been the same scenario as before: she's here in the morning, sits all day facing the same direction (north today), squawks, yodels and leaves for who knows how long.
However she did have a visitor today. Another female stopped by for bugs and coffee and to swap nesting and gestation stories, I assume. What DO peahens talk about? "Hello, Dear! I see you finally found a nesting spot. And how are the eggs today? Oh, don't worry about the littlest one. Mmmmm...you have good bugs here!"
There are now FOUR eggs in the nest (the newest one is on the far left)...and no one sitting on them right now at 1:00 AM in the morning.
I'm wondering if she is sitting on the nest during the day to keep the eggs COOL. It's been sunny and in the upper-70's and mid-80's, and after it starts to cool off, maybe it's not cold enough at night (upper 50's- upper 60's) for her to worry about them, so she goes and joins the rest of the flock in the neighbors' trees. Just a guess here...
I mentioned this story on a couple of discussion lists. A welcome response to my most important question came in today:
"Just to let you know... many birds will not sit tight on a clutch of eggs until they have laid all they are going to. With Cockatiels they can lay an egg every other day for a 10-12 days. Once all the eggs are laid then they will incubate them :) Sounds like your pea hen is doing the same thing. How neat to get a photo doc of it :)"
Interesting...so eggs don't die if not sat on immediately? I wonder how that's possible...they must go into a stasis of some sort? How does an egg KNOW? I guess I need to look up more about eggs in general then, because I'm not finding anything about wild peacocks (except one breeding site that won't give any info unless you pay for their newsletter). Did you know there's even a Peacock Rescue?? Fascinating.
I was hearing a peacock squawk while I was on the computer, and rushed outside to see if I could get a video of an interaction with another. What I got was the hen in the process of LAYING ANOTHER EGG!!
Unfortunately, my digital camera only takes 30 sec clips, and the actual EGG part (that I was lucky enough to see) didn't get filmed because the camera was too busy saving the file. But I got most of it! Download the Window Media Player (.WMV) files here! I will try to keep a closer eye on her in the next few days, and hope I get another chance to get the missing egg portion. Now, if I only knew how many eggs to expect, I'd know how many chances I have.
Here she is going into labor. The egg was dropped right after the last frame here but the camera missed the egg itself due to buffer saving, dang it!
Peahen-After The Egg
This was her behavior immediately following the "birth" of her 5th egg.
Peahen Adjusting Nest
She is adjusting her nest, about 5 minutes after the "birth" of her 5th egg.
Well, I just saw her get up and wander off again. Apparently my theory of laying an egg and then disappearing once she's rested is true. I just wish I knew what makes her decide to come back to the nest... probably instinct, but why such a long wait between sittings?
And here's proof of the 5th egg! It's the one at the lower left, right where I saw her lay it myself! And sure enough,it's the cleanest egg in the nest!
There's one thing about wild peacocks that most rural folks don't get to experience. And that is waking up in the morning hearing large creatures thumping and scraping around on your roof. Add their tropical screams, warbles, yodels and coos, and it's easy to imagine, while half-asleep, that giant pterodactyls are attacking your house!
This morning was a bit weirder than usual however. From the sounds I can only guess what might have happened: a peacock flew up to the roof over my bedroom, landed on a loose, wet shingle from last night's storm, and slid down the roof on it, desperately scrambling to regain balance, only to slide into the metal vent over the bathroom, where he promptly fell off the roof, and into the plastic swimming pool below. I'm only guessing....but I would have LOVED to get whatever the roof antics were that I heard into my camera, because that's exactly what it all sounded like!
Today was the first day I got close to the peahen to take pictures of her, and I've had a lot of fun getting close-ups of her eyes and feather details. (see top and bottom of page and also my peacock photo page ) All previous photos were using the zoom lens on my digital camera. Now I see how she spreads herself over her eggs. She is facing south today.
I've been keeping an eye on her all afternoon. Sitting on the porch, getting eaten by mosquitos, looking for signs of her going into labor so I can get the egg-laying on film. But no luck. She finally decides to get up, stretch her legs and yodel a while to the flock, so I took a peek in the nest.
Nope...no more eggs. Five is apparently all she is going to have. She does seem more serious about her nest now, though. She came back to it within 10 minutes of leaving it. Before, she would disappear for HOURS. Interestingly, she was facing northeast both before she left, and when she returned.
I'm not sure how to interpret this behavior on her return to the nest however. These are the first 2 eggs she laid, judging from their postion in the nest. Are they dead, and she is trying to force them out of the nest? Or are they too warm, and she's letting them cool off? Time will tell.
I have noticed that the peahen faces a different direction each day, and remains in that position for the duration of her sitting session. I wonder if she's trying to tell me something with this position, though. She's obviously tuning out the world.
A group of juveniles came to vist today, but she kept her back to them and ignored them. There were of different ages. One peacock appears to be about 2 years old, judging from the length of his tail feathers. The other two cocks are yearlings. I have no idea how to tell ages on the females, though I suspect it has to do with the colors on around their necks. (Just guessing here).
I've been thinking about the juveniles that came to visit today. There were 6, 3 males, 3 females. I'm wondering if she is a juvenile herself, and these are her peers, or if she is their mother (different clutches) which would make her about 2 or 3 years old?. Only one mature multi-year-old peacock has come to see her. Could that one be her mate? There are about 10 multi-year old peacocks out here. One, "Old Man" had a 7 foot tail, but he's gone now.
Just when I thought she'd given up laying...I missed the 6th egg! Judging from her behavior, and the time, I think I missed it by only about an hour! The behavior was hearing her yodeling, and noticing that she was wandering down the driveway and through the fence. On egg #5, she did the same thing, after resting from the laying.
She came back about 5 minutes later, and hasn't moved since, that I know of.
The 6th egg is the white one in the photo. While I was getting the image ready, I noticed that Egg #2 (middle right) has a chip in it. I wonder if that will ultimately harm the embryo by allowing bacteria in? Or perhaps by weakening the shell and perhaps it cracking prematurely? On the other hand, the chick may get lucky and find an easy way out!
Today we had several hours of rain and severe thunderstorms. The peahen was stoic and stayed on her nest throughout the onslaught. This picture shows the results of all that rain. Good thing she didn't get angry with me for taking pictures of her bedraggled state...I hear nothing gets madder than a wet hen.
It's another wet, rainy day. She's facing northeast today. While she was taking a break up on my roof, I took another picture of the egg positions in the nest. The smallest one is egg number 6.
Well, I suppose the diary is going to be rather boring for a while, except to those who are die-hard peacock fans or reasearchers... at least until the chicks start hatching. Then I'll bombard you with photos again, and with luck, a video of one hatching! Well, I'm going to TRY to get one on video, but don't hold your breath for success. After all, I missed the egg laying. *sigh*
The next entries will consist mainly of which direction she's facing for the day, what position the eggs are in when she takes a break, the weather conditions, and an occasional interesting picture or video if a situation presents itself.
I still do not know what the gestation period is for peacocks, so I can't give you a "due date" for when to return to this page for new excitement.
Page 2 of the Peacock Diaries