Known as: Congo Peafowl, Congo Peacock.
Estimated numbers left in the wild: 15,000 or less.
The Congo peafowl is a colourful bird, with males clad in dark blue feathers that glisten with a metallic sheen of violet and green. The female is a chestnut colour with a metallic green back. The female’s length is 60 to 63 centimetres, while the male is slightly longer at 64 to 70 centimetres. The courtship display of this large, monogamous bird involves the male fanning his tail to display its colours. The tail has no eye spots like those found on the Asian species, however.
Diet: Congo peafowl are mysterious birds, made difficult to study due to their remote location and the fact that they are scattered widely in their habitat. The birds appear to be omnivorous, eating fruits, seeds, and plant parts as well as insects and other small invertebrates. Newly hatched Congo peafowl chicks rely on insects for their initial diet, eating large amounts in their first week of life, presumably for an early spurt of protein for effective growth.
Breeding: A female Congo peafowl reaches sexual maturity in about a year, while males take twice as long to reach their full growth. Their egg clutches are fairly small at two to four eggs per season. In captivity, these birds prefer to lay their eggs on elevated platforms or nest boxes about 1.5 meters above the ground. Their wild nesting behaviour is little known. The female incubates the eggs alone, and these hatch into chicks after 26 days. Male and female Congo peafowl’s most common vocalization is a duet, presumably used for pair bonding and as a location call.
Location: The Congo peafowl is found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly in its eastern half. Lowland rainforest is the bird’s overall habitat, but it seems to prefer specific areas within the forest – slopes between streams, with an open understory, high canopy, and plenty of litter on the forest floor.
Threats: Located in a conflict zone where guerrillas are operating and large numbers of refugees are currently living, the Congo peafowl is currently endangered both by hunting and by habitat loss. Eggs are taken from the nests for food, and birds are captured using snares. Some are also caught in snares left for other animals such as antelopes, and are subsequently eaten. Others are shot for food as well.
Habitat loss comes from several different pressures on the Congo peafowl’s native environment. The clearing of forest for subsistence agriculture is one of these threats. However, mining and logging are also rising hazards. The establishment of mining camps also creates a stronger need for food, leading to more hunting in the area on top of habitat destruction.
Conservation efforts: Nature reserves where hunting can be effectively prevented have proven to be the most positive conservation efforts. Conservation areas are being expanded in several important regions, including Okapi Wildlife Reserve and Salonga National Park.
Additional techniques that might bear fruit in the future include researching ways to introduce sustainable local food production to reduce or stop bushmeat hunting, and staff increases at existing reserves to make policing efforts more effective.
Call from the Wild
Call from the Wild is an organisation started by Frankfurt Zoological Society which supports a variety of national parks throughout Africa to protect different endangered species including Congo peafowls.