Aves Galliformes Phasianidae
Pavo Christatus Pyropus
India Blue Peacock
The Breeding History of the Bronze Peacock
This is a most beautiful dark monochromatic plumaged bird. It’s a study in dark brown, taupes, cocoa browns and mauves with touches of bronze and coppery iridescence over all the train of the male. His neck is a very dark, almost black with a dark green iridescence, similar to the color of a black olive. This makes for a most impressive peacock – subtle elegance.
The peahen is even more subtle. The iridescence on her head and neck are less brilliant than the normal Blue Indian hen. The green is also more blue with no yellow green at all. Her body color is lighter and browner all over.
We have not been able to distinguish the Buford Bronze chicks from the normal India Blue chicks at birth. They must be several weeks old to make this determination. The new wing feathers have a dusty gray appearance to them.
This mutation acts as a normal recessive gene. Each parent must contribute the Bronze gene to the offspring for the offspring to be a Bronze. If only one parent contributes the Bronze gene and the other contributes only normal color genes, then the offspring is heterozygous for Bronze whether it is a male or female. If Buford Bronze is bred to Buford Bronze, one gets all Buford Bronze offspring.
This peafowl was named for the late Buford Abbott of Marysville , Tennessee . Buford had worked with this new mutation for four years after buying the young male at an animal swap meet in Lucasville , Ohio , in the fall of 1988 for $25.00. It was a young male of that year’s hatch. Buford later bred this peacock to a number of different varieties of peahens – Green, Pied, Cameo, Spalding and Blue. He produced numerous offspring.
This peacock came to Roughwood in 1992 after Buford Abbott’s death on February 20. All of Buford’s animals were sold by his family at a sale at his farm. Numbers of other peafowl were also purchased in hopes of getting some offspring of this bird with which to breed to produce this new color. Buford used a toe punch and web notching method to keep track of his birds. Buford’s records were not very decipherable, so we were never quite sure if we were breeding with the Bronze male’s offspring or not. Another Buford Bronze was not produced at Roughwood until the original cock was bred to a hen we had produced here. The hen was one of his offspring. So most likely we were not breeding with any of his offspring prior to this. We produced three Buford Bronze hens in 1994. Then we produced the first new Buford Bronze male in 1995 along with more Bronze hens.
Buford believed this original cock to be a gray Charcoal peacock. He had seen the Charcoal cock with which we were working here at Roughwood and felt it was most similar. The Charcoal cock is, however, much grayer than the Buford Bronze which has a browner base color, more like the Cameo peafowl. The Bronze cock also has lots of subtle colors in its train, whereas the Charcoal cock is totally gray.
There are now at least 33 Buford Bronze peafowl and numerous heterozygous birds breeding in several collections around the country. One could not comfortably say that this new color mutation is fully established yet, but it is well on its way. The Bronze Peafowl are vigorous birds. No health problems have surfaced yet. With out crossing to increase production of this new color, the vigor of these peafowl should be insured. The danger of too much inbreeding is always present when working with a small population.
From Roughwood Aviaries, Clifton L. Nicholson, Jr.
This peacock was one of the more difficult pieces that I have produced for Meddling with Nature. Primarily he is a Bronze Peacock. They are highly sought after and a bit more rare of a breed than other variations. The major thing that sets this peacock apart from the others is his dark color. The oculi feathers are iridescent purple and green instead of the standard blue, gold, and magenta. The back shell feathers are a slate grey, and his front is more of a purplish brown than the striking blue of the classic India breed. These little guys fetch a pretty high price in the taxidermy market. I was able to get this one due to some damage he incurred. Apparently he was killed by a mink. He had significant damage to the neck skin, pinned shell feathers, and pinned secondary wing feathers. This meant that almost half of the shells fell out, and a third of the secondary wing feathers were missing altogether. Basically this bird was killed during a time of molt, a process by which a bird systematically replaces its feathers. (Pinning is when new feathers have been produced, but are not independent of their blood supply, this results in the falling out of feathers when dead due to the lack of skin attachment.)
Luckily his train was in great shape. In order to deal with the deficits I had to find a way to repair the damage using available materials. Normally if there is a problem like this I can easily replace damaged areas with a similar bird. Of course the Bronze peacock is a bit harder to get replacement parts for, so I had to get a little creative. I had a black shoulder peacock, but alas, his secondary wings had a trim of bright blue iridescence which made them too abnormal. I decided that the color of the feather didn’t matter nearly as much as the iridescence, this lead me to choose an Eastern wild turkey. The slate color of the feathers matched as did the more earthy iridescence. Originally I wanted to make this peacock entirely black to work as an opposite to the white peacock, but I soon realized that the shear corruption of the Bronze peacock made more sense.
I doubled his normal feather allotments on the wings and patterned him after a Vulture. I believed it was more important for the peacock to be a true opposite in nature rather than just color. Most of what is visible on the wings is actually from the turkey not the peacock. The primaries are from the original bird. The shells were replaced at the top third with the corresponding piece from the Turkey. Basically I made him a little toupee. In order to get this pieces to adhere I had to strip the original feathers from the peacock. This was incredibly scary to do. Once stripped the skin was covered in contact cement, new pieces placed, pinned and prayed over. Despite common sense, it actually worked and is stable. The eyes for this peacock are painted as a negative of the white peacocks. This was done easily be inverting a photograph of the white peacocks eyes and painting from there. Instead of gold, the bronze was gilded with copper, a much more appropriate alternative, but also a much thicker one. Gold is 1/600,000th of an inch thick. Copper leaf is at about 1/200,000th of an inch, and not nearly as malleable. Burnishing proved to be less than effective, but without the concern of wasting leaf, I was able to be much less exact in placement and simply layered the leaf over and over again until he was complete. The corona was made from the neck feathers of a turkey. The iridescence matched beautifully. Depending on the light, the corona will shine red, olive, or purple, in direct light it appears black.