What Do Peacocks Eat?

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: November 4, 2021
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Peacocks eat snakes, frogs, mice, and insects.

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Male peacocks are among the showiest birds in the world. They like to strut around with their bright iridescent colors and ornate tail plumage shimmering in the sun for all the females to see. The tail plumage seems to play a role in the courtship process. The physical characteristics of the tail feathers, including their length, their symmetry, and even the number of “eyespots” on the ends, are thought to convey important information about the male’s health and vitality to potential mates. That’s because they seem to take a lot of energy and nutrients to properly maintain.

The peacock is a member of the pheasant family; there are two Asian species, the Indian peafowl of the Indian subcontinent and the green peafowl of Southeast Asia, as well as one African species, the Congo peafowl. All three have a generally similar omnivorous diet, but they vary in several important details. This article will cover some interesting facts about what they eat and how they obtain their food.

A quick note on the usage of terms: the male is usually referred to as the peacock, while the female is called the peahen. The group as a whole is called the peafowl. However, for this article, peacocks will be used for both males and females.

What Does the Peacock Eat?

Peacocks are best described as opportunistic omnivores. They like to eat all kinds of different foods, including grains, grasses (such as bamboos), berries, leaves, figs, seeds, flowers, insects, worms, and small reptiles and mammals. They will also sometimes raid cultivated crops such as tomatoes and peppers. Their diet just depends on what is available at the time based on the season and location. For instance, the diet of the Congo peafowl is more likely to consist of oil palm and African breadfruit. In the Indian state of Gujarat, peacocks like to eat the berries of certain buckthorn plants. Different dietary patterns can be found across their entire range.

Peacocks, like many birds, are specially adapted for a plant-heavy diet. To break down food, they have a specialized organ called a gizzard located near the digestive system. This organ helps them grind up tough food from grains and other plants. The peacock will swallow pebbles and store them in the gizzard to assist with the grinding process.

In the wild, peacocks are daytime foragers. They sleep in large groups at night, usually concealed in tall and open trees, and then break up into smaller groups in the morning to forage for food. They normally take a mid-day break to preen feathers while resting comfortably in the shade, and then they return to foraging one last time before the darkness sets in.

In the non-breeding season, peacock foraging groups usually consist of both males and females in equal measure. But once the breeding season arrives, the foraging party consists of a harem with a single dominant male and multiple breeding females; the other males are left to forage together in bachelor groups.

Peacocks are thought to play an important ecological role by regulating the number of snakes, lizards, insects, and other common animals. This helps to prevent any one animal from dominating the ecosystem.

What grains do peacocks eat?

Peacocks enjoy eating all kinds of different grains, including oats and corn. They aren’t very picky about what they eat.

What do peacocks eat in the wild?

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In the wild peacocks eat their normal omnivorous diet of grains, berries, leaves, insects, etc. In captivity, however, they are usually fed a combination of pellets, chopped greens, chopped fruits, bread, cooked rice, corn, and other food items meant to replicate their natural omnivorous diet. Captive peacocks can live quite long (some reports indicate up to 30 or 40 years) because they have less to fear from starvation, predation, and disease. However, problems arise if they become too sedentary. Wild peacocks must move around constantly in search of food, but in captivity they often expect food to come to them. They may therefore develop gout and kidney problems that can shorten their lives.

What do peacocks eat in the winter?

Peacocks don’t have a specific winter diet, but they do sometimes respond to changes in the season by shifting to different food sources.

How do peacocks eat snakes?

Peacocks appear to view snakes as natural threats and not just sources of food. These birds will attack snakes on sight by pecking at them on the ground, whether the snakes are poisonous or not. They are so revered for their ability to eat young cobras that their name in Sanskrit (a South Asian language) means “killer of snakes.”

What do baby peacocks eat?

Unlike many other types of birds, baby peacocks are highly mobile from the moment they’re born and feed for themselves. It takes only one week before they can fly. Many of the baby peacocks will follow the mother for the first few weeks of their lives and eat mostly adult foods. They are almost completely independent once they learn how to forage properly for food.

A Complete List of the Top 10 Foods the Peacock Eats

The peacock has a long and varied diet. It is difficult to list specific species. Instead, they can consume almost any type of food listed in the following groups:

  • Grains
  • Berries
  • Leaves
  • Grasses
  • Flower parts
  • Insects
  • Worms
  • Snakes
  • Lizards
  • Small mammals

Next Up: Meet the Common Cuckoo: The Bird That Steals Nests

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AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.