Green peafowl (Pavo muticus)

Also known as: Burmese peafowl, Green-necked peafowl, Java peafowl
Spanish: Pavo-real Cuelliverde, Pavo-real Verde
GenusPavo (1)
SizeLength of male: 244 cm (2)
Length of female: 100 – 110 cm (2)
Top facts

The green peafowl is listed as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The green peafowl (Pavo muticus) is famous for the glorious train carried by the male, the green peafowl lifts these metre-long iridescent upper tail feathers into a quivering fan when displaying. Each of the 200 metallic feathers ends in a beautiful brown, green and gold eyespot. The green peafowl is less well known, but perhaps even more spectacular than its close relative the Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus), and has a more upright posture, a greener neck, and a darker, more golden train. The male has a long, green and tightly bundled head-crest which is held erect. The feathers of the head and neck are dark bluish-green and have a metallic sheen, but leave bare blue and yellow skin on show beneath the eyes. The wings are dark green and blue with pale brown flight feathers. Females are not brown, as in the Indian peafowl, but are a less vivid shade of green, and lack the train. Juveniles resemble the female. Males call with a repeated, territorial ‘ki-wao’, whereas females give a loud ‘aow-aa’ (2).

Three subspecies are known: Pavo muticus muticus which is the brightest of the subspecies, having iridescent blue and green wings, P. m. spicifer which is duller in colour, with less green and more blue feathers, and P. m. imperator which has darker sides, belly and secondaries, and lighter facial skin than the other subspecies (4).

This conspicuous species was once common and widespread across Asia, but is now only patchily distributed in Yunnan, China, west Thailand, Laos, south Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma and on Java, Indonesia. The green peafowl is thought to be extinct in northeast India and Bangladesh, and is known to be extinct in Malaysia. Between 5,000 and 10,000 individuals are estimated to survive (2).

Green peafowl are found in a wide range of habitats including primary and secondary forest, both tropical and subtropical, as well as evergreen and deciduous. They may also be found amongst bamboo, on grasslands, savannah, scrub and farmland edge (2).

Green peafowl wander widely, but are not migratory. Females and juveniles travel in groups of two to six individuals, and do not form pair bonds or harems with males. However, when peahens (female peafowl) pass through the territory of a mature male during the breeding season, he will court them, dancing and displaying his impressive train in an upright fan-shape (5). This takes place between April and June, and results in four to six eggs which are incubated by the female for 26 to 28 days. The young green peafowl can fly within two weeks of hatching, but will remain with the adults until the next breeding season. Adults moult after breeding, and although males lose their magnificent trains, the wing feathers regenerate so rapidly that they can fly throughout the moult. Associations between males, females and juveniles are not fully understood, and many breeding systems appear to exist. Although in the wild males are solitary, in captivity, green peafowl form monogamous pairs (5).

Green peafowl are omnivorous, foraging for grains, seeds, insects, shoots, buds, young leaves, and fruit (5).

Inevitably, the green peafowl is hunted for its extravagant train feathers, but also for meat. Chicks and eggs are collected for the pet trade and farmers poison adults as they are thought of as a crop-pest, particularly in China. Habitat change and disturbance are also threats, reducing breeding success (2).

Green peafowl populations are found in many of the protected areas across the range, and wide-ranging public education programmes have been held throughout China and Laos. Distribution and status surveys are necessary to establish the effects of habitat fragmentation, and education programmes such as those in China and Laos should be extended into Burma and Cambodia. More protected areas would also be beneficial, but it is important to ensure that hunting bans are enforced in these areas. Green peafowl are currently listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, but there are calls for it to be upgraded to Appendix I, to enforce a total ban on trade in live birds and train feathers (2).

For further information on the green peafowl see: 

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2011)
  2. BirdLife International (April, 2005)
  3. CITES (April, 2008)
  4. Pheasants and peafowl (April, 2005)
  5. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.