The ‘‘Peacock Stamps” are the third in the series on the conservation of wildlife, be-ing issued by the Pakistan Post Office. These stamps, have been planned for public motivation with a view to focus attention on the need to protect wildlife.
The peacock is a very familiar bird and is almost universally known. It was gener-ally found in the outer Himalayas to the south and east of the Indus River, includ-ing Kashmir. Later it was introduced in parts of Sind e.g. Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Umarkot and Sehwan Areas, and now it stands fairly established with a semi feral status in Sind. It is also found in Bahawal-pur Division. It lives in the precincts of villages and cultivated areas in close asso-ciation with man.
The fan-shaped crest of spatula-tipped wire-like feathers together with the brilliant glistening blue neck and breast, and the sweeping metallic, bronze-green train boldly oscillated with purplish black-centered coppery discs or eye spots, make the cock unmistakable. Lower back is light bronze-green narrowly scalloped with black and buff. There is a good deal of chestnut in wings. Female is some-what smaller, similarly crested but without the sweeping train.
It keeps in small flocks or droves consisting usually of a cock and 3 to 5 hens. After the breeding season segregated par-ties of adult males and females with their immature broods are more common. In the wild state the birds emerge cautiously into forest clearings, and ploughed or newly sown fields in the early mornings and late afternoons to scratch the ground for food. An hour or so after sunrise they troop down to water places to drink, tripping gingerly over the dry leaves, craning their necks at every step and peering inquisitively through the bushes with the utmost circum-spection. They spend the heat of the day in impenetrable thickets of lantana and the like. Peafowl are possessed of phenomenally keen eyesight and hearing and are excessive-ly wary and wide awake at all times, duck-ing their heads and slinking away through the undergrowth on the least suspicion. The birds prefer to trust to their legs for escape, running one behind the other when driven by beaters and seldom take to wing except when flushed by a dog or to cross some open river-bed or ravine. When properly launched they fly strongly with rapid flaps and glides and dexterous twists and turns to avoid tree-trunks and other obstacles.
Peafowl roost at night in tall trees, the jungle resounds with their loud and ugly “may-awe” calls at dusk and early dawn before the birds descend to feed. Cocks arc quick to detect the presence of the larger cats on the prowl and herald the marauders’ progress through the forest with loud warning alerts which are taken up by other cocks and by lungur monkeys.
The species is omnivorous but generally feeds on seeds, grain, lentils, groundnuts, tender shoots of crops, flower-buds, berries, drupes, lizards, small snakes, insects and in and around villages also human excreta. In areas where it is semiferal and abundant it is destructive to cereal and ground-nut crops and a veritable scourge to the small farmer, vying with the monkeys in the work of devastation.
The display or dance of the cock consists of erecting and fully fanning out the oscil-lated train which is slightly tilted and arched forward. His half open chestnut wings are drooped at the sides and go through a continuous shaking or quivering. In this posture he faces the hen or (hens) and with legs partly flexed struts and prances from one foot to the other in mincing steps as if stalking her, an action reminiscent of the holding maneuver with arms stretched out.
It lays three to five eggs from June to October. Female alone incubates and incubation period varies from 26 to 28 days. The cock is polygamous.
This bird is getting very rare in the country and every effort is to be made for its preservation. For this purpose all the Provincial Governments have issued ordinance/acts with a view to regulating the measures aimed at conservation and multiplication of the wildlife in Pakistan. Accordingly, the peacock has been declared as a protected animal and its hunting has been banned all over the country. Government alone cannot do all that is needed for this purpose. The various measures adopted by the Government can bear fruit only if the public cooperates in the efforts aimed at the multiplication and conservation of one of the most beautiful species of the world. It is, imperative that people do not shoot the bird and refrain from disturbing its natural habitat.