I have a friend in China, who blogs as Spaceship China and recently visited Xishuangbanna, a region far south in the southern province of Yunnan, home to the Dai people, and took some stupendous photos.
One of my customers, Florance, lives in Romania, and happens to breed peacocks. She sent me some pictures of her peacock chicks, after seeing ‘my Easter chicks’. They have both given me permission to use their photographs.
These stunning iridescent peacock feathers, which almost everyone, at some time, has admired, come from the male of the species and are used in as glorious mating displays to attract the far duller brown female of the species!
They have inspired countless artists and writers, and have at various times, been fashionable additions to hats and fans, and home decorations.
Just to blind you with science – this bit comes from Wikipedia – smile – it explains how the colours in this display are produced by ‘reflection and refraction’.
As with many birds, vibrant iridescent plumage colours are not primarily pigments, but structural coloration. Optical interference Bragg reflections based on regular, periodic nanostructures of the barbules (fiber-like components) of the feathers produce the peacock’s colours. Slight changes to the spacing of these barbules result in different colours. Brown feathers are a mixture of red and blue: one colour is created by the periodic structure and the other is created by a Fabry–Pérot interference peak from reflections from the outer and inner boundaries. Such structural coloration causes the iridescence of the peacock’s hues since interference effects depend on light angle rather than actual pigments.
But going back to the whimsical – this is a myth about ‘The Peacock Princess’ as recounted in spaceshipchina.com!
The Dai people have a legend about their ancestors. One day, the Prince of the Dai was visiting a lake, and he saw seven peacocks fly down. At the lakeside, the peacocks turned into young women. Fascinated, the prince waited for them to return. As they took of their mantle – feathers on their head – they turned into the women and went bathing.
The prince stole the youngest swan’s mantle, and when the others turned back into birds, she stayed human. The prince married her, and she became known as Princess Peacock.
The peacock woman asked the king to perform a dance to ensure the safe return of the prince. Taking her feather mantle, she started dancing and transformed back into a peacock and flew away.
The Dai people worship peacocks as being messengers of peace, kindness, love and beauty.
The story of the seven heavenly peacocks is reminiscent of other myths regarding the constellation Cygnus.
Peacocks have other Royal Connections – During the Medieval period, various types of fowl were consumed as food, the more wealthy gentry were privileged to less usual foods, such as swan, and even peafowl were consumed. On a king’s table, a peacock would be for ostentatious display as much as for culinary consumption.
And there are many other myths associated with these beautiful birds see Wikipedia again!
Before Florance sent me the pictures below, I had never seen peacock chicks, they look like any other chicks until they are about 2 months old, when you can start to see the differentiations. This is a selection of the pictures she sent me from Romania.
She doesn’t currently have a website or blog, but if you want to ask her any questions about rearing peacocks, I will be happy to pass them on to her, or if you leave a comment below, perhaps she will answer them herself! Her English is very good.
To see the titles, hover over the pictures, or click on them and you will get them enlarged in a slide show format.