In praise of ostentation!
There is one species strutting around the Reid Park Zoo, unconcerned about human visitors, and VERY impressed with their own beauty and perfection. They change their look and behavior with the seasons (breeding season, that is) and choose exactly when and where they’d like to visit you.
They can often be seen pilfering food from their animal companions in the Zoo, and seem very interested in also attracting their attention. That’s right – these ladies and gentlemen, all 17 of them, are “free range,” and no, we’re not talking about the ducks that waddle around at will or the very plump squirrels.
They are the Reid Park Zoo’s ostentation of Indian Peafowl, and yes, that’s what a group of peacocks and peahens is officially called! These 12 males and 5 females are officially part of the RPZ’s collection, which means that their health is checked annually. But they are allowed to roam around, so you never know where you might see one – on the path in front of you, squawking loudly from a tree in the Giraffe habitat, showing off for the Grevy’s Zebras, relaxing with the South African Leopard Tortoises, posing next to a White Rhino, or anywhere else they decide to go.
That’s right – anywhere. These birds are fully flighted, so they could choose to fly off from the Zoo whenever they wanted – but they know a good environment when they have one. For them, The Reid Park Zoo grounds constitute a desirable home where they can find safety, ample food and water, shelter, and yes, the admiration of many humans. Not to mention health care if they need it. Though they are unconcerned about the presence of humans in their midst, they will obligingly (if slowly) stroll out of the way if they’re blocking your path. They also seem to enjoy allowing you to photograph them.
Indian Peafowl are members of the Pheasant family. Of course, peacocks are famous for their gorgeous plumage, and no two individuals have exactly the same color patterns. They spend breeding season displaying their beautiful tail feathers in a huge fan (six or seven feet wide) in hopes of attracting a mate. After the season ends, though, they drop all these feathers and grow new ones the next year. They have unmistakable, really loud voices, usually calling in the mornings and evenings, but if it’s breeding season, all day. At night they sleep in a group in a safe, tall tree or two. In their native habitats, India and Sri Lanka, they spend their days foraging on the ground each day for grain, insects, and even small reptiles – but at the Zoo, the smorgasbord is endless – they can forage if they choose to, but they can much more easily find a wide variety of food just for the taking.
Luckily for us, they live about 15-20 years, so those of us who get a special kick out of seeing these haughty creatures walking or displaying in front of us can count on this ostentatious bonus experience every time we visit The Reid Park Zoo!