Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Peacocks beautiful, proud and noisy

click photo to enlarge
The Indian Peafowl, the male of which is commonly known as the peacock, is one of the avian world's most brightly coloured members. The electric blue of its body and the iridescent blues and greens of the "eyes" of its tail are very striking. The peacock's shape and the details of its tail have been used in art and design down the centuries, in Europe particularly during the period of Art Nouveau. Moreover, though it is native to India, its popularity is such that it can now be found in virtually every country of the world, often in parks and gardens as well as zoos. In Britain it is frequently found strutting around stately homes or clamouring for attention in collections of birds in wildlife parks. People frequently cite it as their favourite bird or name it the most beautiful of birds.

I can see good qualities in the peacock but it wouldn't feature in even my top 50 favourite birds. I don't think I'm alone in not sharing the general liking of the species, though the naysayers and doubters are very much a minority. If you are someone who wonders why anyone could find fault with this magnificent bird consider this: the word "peacock" can be used as a term of disapprobation, often applied to over-dressed men indulging in what the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) calls "vainglorious display". Such a development surely suggests that some see these qualities in the bird and feel it is useful to purloin the word for that purpose. Whether it's fair to anthropomorphise in this way I leave to you to decide, but clearly not everyone is persuaded by the peacock's magnificent tail and the eye-catching colour.

However, people often acquire likes and dislikes through circumstances peculiar to themselves; that is to say, for reasons that are unlikely to be shared by someone else. So it is with me. Many years ago my wife and I were cycling along a quiet country lane past a farm. Suddenly our ears were unexpectedly assaulted by the piercing cry of a bird only a few feet away that was standing on a wall, at the same height as our heads. It was, of course, a peacock, one we hadn't noticed because of the low hanging branches of the trees. We nearly jumped out of our saddles, such was the explosive force of the unexpected call. Ever since that day I have associated peacocks and their distinctive call with that heart-stopping moment. It is responsible for my enduring negative opinion of the bird.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 300mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/300 sec
ISO: 800
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On