Thursday, November 02, 2006

Why no tail?

"Pokkhiraaj jodi habe, tahole nyaj nei keno?" said a character in the immortal Bengali story Ha-Ja-Ba-Ra-La by Sukumar Ray.

It can be loosely translated as, "If it is a king of birds then why no tail?" (though the word Pokkhiraaj is usually used for 'Pegasus' and not for the more literal 'king of birds')

Well, I was wondering just that after I saw these peacocks. I was walking in the Chandrashekhar Azad Shahid Park in the middle of Allahabad which is locally known as the Company Garden. It is a large park with some wooded regions inside. I heard the characteristic peacock call and soon discovered a few of the birds. At first I thought all were hens, but a closer look revealed that the cocks had no tails.

Were they sick? Had the tails fallen off due to some disease? Or are there people who catch these majestic birds and cut off their tails? Peacock plumes fetch a good price at the market. Or was it possible that only those birds have been offered sanctuary here who had been previously assaulted by plume hunters? I had no way of finding out, but it is indeed a sorry sight to see these proud creatures move around like that, as if the Emperor was wearing his new clothes!

And as if this was not enough, I witnessed even a sadder spectacle. I saw one of the peacocks dance. That wonderful dance that the peacock does with his tail fanned up behind him to impress the peahens. Only here he did not have that tail behind him. See the picture on the left (click to enlarge). It was very far and darkness was approaching, but still, you can make out the peacock dancing. I don't know if the hens were impressed, but I felt sorry for the poor bird.

I wish them a speedy recovery, although I have no idea whatsoever whether such a thing is possible, that is, if peacocks can grow their lost tails back. I hope somebody will take notice of the problem soon. Whether it is a disease or due to illegal feather trade, it needs to be looked into. Our national bird should be able to live with much more dignity in our parks and forests.


  1. Seems to be a different kind of a post. Hmmm... I join u in wishing them a speedy recovery.
    Donn wrry, as far as my knowledge of biology goes any bird can grow its feathers back. Although for a peacock the duration to do the same may be a bit longer!!

  2. May be they are balding. Jokes apart, thats sad, a peacock's beauty is its tail.

  3. Its the time of the year they moult. You know they are only supposed to have tail feathers on display in the mating season. In India the mating season is between March and October. Maybe thats why you literally caught them without even a fug leaf to cover their modesty. ;)

    Try out these links below, you may find them intersting:

  4. @aurindam: Hmmm... let's hope that's the case. See Prometheus_unbound's comment.

    @shreemoyee: Of course! They look odd without the tail.

    @prometheus_unbound: Thanks for the lovely links. I hope they were just moulting. I thought that first, but when I saw that peacock dance, I thought that the mating season must be still on. I took the photos in mid October.