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When people think of a peacock, it's usually the really brightly coloured ones they mean, but it turns out that it's only the males who look like that. The lady peacocks are quite plain coloured all over- white or grey or brown, and they go by the name of 'peahens'. In fact these birds aren't really called a peacock at all! They're called 'peafowls', and only the men ones are actually 'peacocks'.

A bit like the octopus, the colours of their amazing tail feathers is a bit of a trick. There aren't really any rainbow or iridescent colours there at all, it's just a trick of the light!

If you look at the details of the feathers under a microscope, there are lots of little crystal shapes in them, that bend or diffract the light, breaking it up into all those different colours. It's a lot like how a prism turns white light into a rainbow, or all the swirling colour patterns you can see if you look really closely at a big soap bubble when it's brightly lit.

There's a quite complicated scientific explanation of it here, including some fantastic close up photos...


Scientists like Charles Darwin wondered why male peacocks had developed or evolved such huge tails- ones that didn't seem to have any real use, and would just slow the birds down if they needed to run away from danger.

Eventually they worked out that it was just to impress the lady peahens! It was a way of attracting them, because it would prove how strong they must really be, to be able to survive having such a clumsy tail to drag around with them everywhere.

Just like a 'flock' of sheep, there's a name for a group of peafowls together... a 'muster', although some people say it's an 'ostentation'... I wonder which one is right?

You can learn more about peacocks or peafowls here -