Over recent posts here I have featured some of the birds I saw on a visit to the Western Plains Zoo near Dubbo, New South Wales. As we were leaving several peacocks strutted past us in the car park – all for the world like they owned the place. I have found that this is a common trait in this species of bird.
I should give this bird it proper name: Indian Peafowl. Most people I know will call it a ‘peacock’, but that is more correctly the name given only to the male. The female is called a peahen. The birds shown in today’s post are all males.
This most colourful and charismatic of birds is an introduced species in Australia. The species is native to India and Sri Lanka. Small feral populations exist in many parts of the world, Australia being no exception. They are a common adornment in zoos, parks and gardens in many parts of Australia.
Feral: a domesticated species that has been released or has escaped into the wild and is now living independently.
From time to time members of a species of bird escape from aviaries or captivity, or are deliberately released into the wild for a range of reasons. If a group of these individuals becomes established and start breeding they can form a feral population of that species.
A classic case of this occurred in the USA some years ago. The Australian Budgerigar is probably the most popular cage bird in the world. Individuals that escaped or were released from captivity soon started breeding and eventually established large flocks in the wild where they continued to flourish for some time. Naturally, this deprived local natural species of both food and nesting sites and were therefore a pest species. In more recent years I understand this population has begun to die out.
Australian feral populations:
A number of species have established feral populations in parts of Australia. These include:
- various species of geese and ducks
- Red Junglefowl on some islands off the coast of Queensland
- Common Pheasant – various locations, including King Island, Bass Strait
- Wild Turkey – on Flinders and King Islands, Bass Strait.
- Indian Peafowl – various locations, including Flinders and King Islands (see photo below)
- California Quail – King Island.
- Mute Swan – in Western Australia.
- Ostrich – these were farmed for their plumes in various locations, mainly in South Australia, in the 1800s. They were released into the wild where they established small feral populations. Small groups were reported from the Port Augusta region until very recently. Some may still survive.