Afropavo congensisCongo peacock(Also: Congo peafowl)

Geographic Range

The Congo peafowl, Afropavo congensis, is native to the African Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire. Specifically, the species occurs largely in the eastern regions of the Republic. In the Congo, this peafowl lives in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, the Salonga National Park, the Maiko National Park, and the Kahuzi-Biega National Park. The 3.6 million hectare Salonga National Park is located in the center of the peafowl's range. The species is spread across an area with longitudes of 20-28 degrees east and 2 degrees north to 5 degrees south. Its northeasternmost boundary is the Ituri Forest, and it extends further north of the Yekokora River and further south between the Lukenie and Sankuru Rivers. The peafowl are also present in the forest area between the Lomami and Congo Rivers. (Birdlife International, 2013; Dupain, et al., 1996; Hart and Upoki, 1997; Jackson, 2006; The Pheasant Specialist Group, 2000)


Congo peafowl live in lowland rainforests between elevations of 100 and 1200 m. Both undisturbed primary and old-growth secondary forests are utilized by the peafowl. Secondary forests are more frequented by these birds because of the abundant food supply. The high canopy, densely covered secondary forests, with 60-80% coverage, are also heavily utilized by the species when they are located between two primary forests. The peafowl can also be found in areas with low hills, floodplains, and forests with dry soil. They are often associated with streams. (Bennett and Davidson, 2014; Birdlife International, 2013; Chauhan, 2014; Dupain, et al., 1996; Hart and Upoki, 1997; Mulotwa, et al., 2010)

  • Range elevation
    100 to 1200 m
    328.08 to 3937.01 ft

Physical Description

Sexual dimorphism is exhibited in A. congensis. Both sexes have a red, bare throat with gray bills; however, the male is larger and more colorful than the female. The peacocks measure between 640-700 mm in length, and their wings are 310-330 mm in length. The weight of the males has not been reported. The crest is split in two parts on the peacocks. The front of the crest consists of 90 mm long white bristles. The back portion of the crest consists of black feathers that measure 35 mm in length. The peacocks' eyes are dark brown, and they have a bronze-green body with a black underside. The wing coverts, breast feathers, and the tip of the tail feathers are a violet-blue color on the males, and they reach full plumage after two years. Congo peacocks do not have the vast, colorful train that is associated with the Indian peacock, Pavo cristatus, nor do they have ocelli. The males exhibit a longer tail than the females at 206-240 mm; the males' tails are black complimented by blue and green tips. The legs of the Congo peacocks are blue-gray and 96-106 mm in length, and the spurs are skinny and curve upward and inward.

Peahens weigh between 1135-1154 g and they are 600-630 mm long. No wingspan has been reported for the females. Their crests are comprised of rufous chestnut feathers, and their eyes are brown. In contrast to the males, the females have only a brown and glossy-green body. The upper portion of females' tails are black with a green tip, while the bottom part is brown with black and green coloring. The tail measures between 195-225 mm in length. The legs of the Congo peahens are gray, and the tarsus measures 85-90 mm.

Young female chicks are very similar in color to the adult females. First-year males have brown backs, unlike the adult males. The first year males' upper back, upper breast, and lower wings are trimmed in a violet-blue color. The rest of the body is black. The short crest is white, and no spurs exist. Before the peachicks' reach full maturity, they are a muted brown and black color with only green feathers on the upper back and wing coverts. Their heads are black-gray, and their throat is a light brown.

No reliable source has reported on the basal metabolic rate of Congo peafowl. (Chauhan, 2014; Gardiner, 1996; Jackson, 2006; Johnsgard, 1999; Joshi, 2013; Kimball, et al., 1997)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • male more colorful
  • Range mass
    1135 to 1154 g
    40.00 to 40.67 oz
  • Range length
    600 to 700 mm
    23.62 to 27.56 in
  • Range wingspan
    310 to 330 mm
    12.20 to 12.99 in


Congo peafowl are monogamous breeders. The length of time a couple remains monogamous is not reported. These long term bonds are believed to be the reason that there is such a lack of sexual selection and little ornamentation in these peafowl, in comparison to that of Asian peafowl (Pavo). When attracting a mate, peacocks display to peahens. The display has been observed, in depth, in captive birds. When displaying, the peafowl are facing each other and their tail feathers are raised and curled downward. The tail facing downwards is also opposite of Asian peafowl displays. During display, Congo peacocks distribute their body in a lateral fashion as one wing is raised, one wing is lowered, and the tail points to one side. Still on display, these peacocks lower their head and point it toward the peahens. If the peahens are ready to mate, they fan their own tail feathers, drop their wings, and raise their head. (Gardiner, 1996; Jackson, 2006; Johnsgard, 1999; Kimball, et al., 1997; van Bemmel, 1961)

Congo peafowl breed in trees, and they may build their nests in trees or above the ground. When bred in captivity researchers elevate nests, but the birds rarely breed while being observed. Congo peafowl mate in areas with high humidity and temperature and areas of heavy leaf coverage. In captivity, the birds mate in temperatures of 22-24 degrees Celsius. Verheyen (1965) discovered that the peafowl show little receptivity in mating in the winter, beginning in November. Although the pairs remain together in the winter, they do not resume mating until March. Congo peafowl may also base their breeding season on rainfall amounts. In the same study, Verheyen found that the peahen can have multiple clutches per year, typically using the same nest. He reports three months between clutches. Each clutch contains two or three eggs, and incubation is twenty-six to twenty-eight days long. Some birds lay up to five or six clutches a year. The eggs are a solid red-yellow color and 58-60 mm by 45-49 mm, but the mass of the chicks at birth has not been reported. No reliable sources have reported the exact age of chicks when fledging or sexual maturity is reached, but females display little attachment to chicks after they reach eleven weeks old. (Gardiner, 1996; Lovel, 1976; The Pheasant Specialist Group, 2000; van Bemmel, 1961; Verheyen, 1965)

  • Breeding interval
    Congo peafowl breed roughly at 3-month intervals during the breeding season
  • Breeding season
    Congo peafowl breed from March until November
  • Range time to hatching
    26 to 28 days
  • Range time to independence
    11 (low) weeks

Both parents contribute to the raising of the young in Congo peafowl. During incubation, peahens sit on the nest and peacocks stay close by guarding the nest. Once the eggs have hatched, the peacocks keep watch over the chicks. Chicks can walk as soon as they are born, they have been spotted on the edge of nests, under their mother's feathers, and on the backs of their mothers. Van Bemmel (1961) reports chicks leaving the nest and the parents calling, taking the chick back to the nest, and putting the chick under their feathers. Both parents provide food for their young, but the males do so more than the females. They will either feed the chicks from their bills or give the food to the chicks by placing it in front of their feet. The peacock is especially protective of the young. If predators get near the nest, the peacocks display to warn predators, and the other Congo peafowl. Congo peafowl may attack predators. In captivity, chicks follow the parents around. In one particular observation by van Bemmel (1961), a female chick attacked her mother when the mother was attempting to breed. The mother hen flew away, and she was followed by the five-month-old chick. (Dupain, et al., 1996; Kimball, et al., 1997; van Bemmel, 1961; Verheyen, 1965)


Though no reliable source has published the lifespan of Congo peafowl in either the wild or captivity, there are known factors that affect the lifespan of Congo peafowl in captivity. Foster (2001) reports the importance of a proper diet for Congo peafowl in captivity. In captivity, the peafowl are hard to breed and feed properly because captive conditions differ so much from their natural habitat. Many chicks do not survive, and adults' deaths are often diet related. Liver disease, gout, fat around the heart, kidney and heart failure, and lipidosis are some examples of the causes of death by means of diet in this species. Further, Lovel (1976) reported that chicks are especially sensitive to disease like aspergillosis and capillaria (caused by mold and nematodes, respectively). (Foster, 2001; Lovel, 1976)


Congo peacocks may travel alone or with females and their young. Peacocks always lead the females. Congo peafowl breed and have nests in trees, but not all of these birds are arboreal. The territory of the Congo peafowl is fiercely defended by the male during breeding season. The male may attack after giving a warning call and simple display. According to Dupain et al. (1996), peacocks give loud warning calls after spotting humans, Homo sapiens, and sometimes circle the predators. All of the peafowl's food is on the ground, which is where most individuals spend their time. They also concentrate near water. In captivity, van Bemmel (1961) described the birds as lazy. The birds were rarely active during the day. They only left their densely-covered bush area to eat. A large amount of their time was spent sitting on low branches, and they roosted in trees at night. Congo peafowl cry and call most frequently at night; this has been observed in captivity and in the wild. (Dupain, et al., 1996; Jackson, 2006; van Bemmel, 1961)

Home Range

No reliable source has reported the area a single Congo peafowl occupies. (Dupain, et al., 1996; van Bemmel, 1961)

Communication and Perception

Congo peafowl communicate through vocalization, mostly at night. Their call has been described as a hoarse cry, and the birds often call in duets. Male calling has been described as a: "rro-ho-ho-o-a" and "gowe-gowah". Female crowing is described as a: "hej-hoh-hej-hoh". When a "hoot-dash" noise is made by a male, it is safe to assume that the peacock is inviting the hen to mate. Chicks chirp while still in the egg in an effort to build attachment to the peahen and siblings.

Congo peafowl communicate with other animals when potential predators are around. In 1995, a research team was spotted by a male Afropavo congensis. The peacock began to produce an alarm call to a group of black crested mangabey monkeys, Cercopithecus aterrimus, and mona monkeys, Cercopithecus mona. One of the monkeys took notice and began sounding his own warning call. This interaction was the first observed interspecies interaction involving a Congo peafowl.

The peacocks also communicate through displays. They will fight for a lead position in a group of peafowl. Once accomplished, the peacock shows off by shaking his tail feathers. Peacocks also communicate with mates through displays. (Chauhan, 2014; Dupain, et al., 1996; Jackson, 2006; Joshi, 2013)

  • Other Communication Modes
  • duets

Food Habits

Congo peafowl are considered omnivores and oftentimes, frugivores and insectivores. The various fruits and berries consumed by these animals are a source of vitamins and antioxidants. One particular fruit located in the Kasai is frequently consumed by the species, but published reports do not include the species name.

In addition to fruits and berries, the species also eats dry foods. Leaf litter invertebrates, found on the floor of rainforests, have been considered one of the animal's primary food sources. The bird has been observed eating mosquito larvae, dried ant eggs, termites, grasshoppers, crickets, and Drosophila. The birds consume many seeds and vegetative items. The types of seeds have not been identified by a reliable source. The majority of the vegetation and fruiting plants eaten by the birds are native to the old secondary forests, which may explain why this habitat is more commonly used by the species. (Chauhan, 2014; Foster, 2001; Hart and Upoki, 1997; Joshi, 2013; Mulotwa, et al., 2010; Verheyen, 1965)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


Humans, Homo sapiens are the only know predators of Congo peafowl, for many Congolese consume these birds. The anti-predator strategies performed by Congo peafowl include displays and warning calls. The birds circle predators and call very loudly, oftentimes informing other peafowl, and other species, of the threat. Both sexes will produce warning calls against predators. When defending their nests, peacocks become especially violent. They display and attack soon after. (Gardiner, 1996; Hart and Upoki, 1997; Jackson, 2006; The Pheasant Specialist Group, 2000)

Ecosystem Roles

Congo peafowl are carriers of parasites. Clay (1938) reported bird lice (suborder Mallophaga) from the Congo peafowl. In this study, Congo peafowl served as hosts to the lice Goniodes afropavo, Goniodes chapini, Goniodes wilsoni, and Lipeurus schoutedeni. Lovel (1976) reports these captive birds die in response to tapeworms and roundworms. Both Lovel (1976) and van Bemmel (1961) had their captive Congo peafowl die from coccidiosi, caused by protozoan parasites. (Clay, 1938; Lovel, 1976; van Bemmel, 1961)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Bird Lice Goniodes afropavo
  • Bird Lice Goniodes chapini
  • Bird Lice Goniodes wilsoni
  • Bird Lice Lipeurus schoutedeni
  • Tapeworm
  • Roundworm
  • Protozoan Parasite Coccidia

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Humans use the feathers of Congo peafowl for ornamentation. In the early 1900's, the feathers of the Congo peafowl were used in headdresses of the Congolese.

Congo peafowl are eaten by humans, Homo sapiens. Soldiers often ate the birds during one of the Congo civil wars; the time of this particular war was not specified. Some Congolese domesticate Congo peachicks and raise them with their chickens, and the Congo peafowl are still eaten today. (Dupain, et al., 1996; Jackson, 2006; Wallechinsky, et al., 2005)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

No reliable source has reported Congo peafowl as having a negative economic impact on humans.

Conservation Status

Congo peafowl are listed as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List. In addition to heavily hunting these birds, humans are destroying the birds' habitat by means of logging, mining, and agriculture. Hunting pressures are also threatening the peafowl. Traps are often set in the peafowl's range, and these snares are baited with the fruit of the Bokwa tree. It is estimated that around twenty birds per year are caught in such traps.

Conservation efforts are in place. This species is a part of the managed captive breeding program. Antwerp Zoo in Belgium has done the most work with this species, and in 1971 they established The Congo Peafowl Trust. This trust held the captive peafowl and distributed them to other zoos for breeding purposes; by 1996 about twenty zoos worldwide housed Congo peafowl. Captive breeding of Congo peafowl is also under examination, for it oftentimes fails due to the difference in captive conditions and wild conditions. The birds are also reluctant to breed when being watched. In wild environments, the birds live in the Maiko National Park, Salgona National Park, Okapi Wildlife Reserve, and the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in Congo. Most studies examining conservation efforts take place in Salgona National Park. In this park from 2004-2005, Congo peafowl were seen at a rate of one peafowl every 9.03 km.

None of the other listed pages included a status for Congo peafowl. (Birdlife International, 2013; Foster, 2001; Gardiner, 1996; Hart and Upoki, 1997; Jackson, 2006; Lovel, 1976; Mulotwa, et al., 2010)

Other Comments

The Congolese refer to Congo peafowl as the mbulu bird. (Jackson, 2006)


Kassie Hall (author), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, April Tingle (editor), Radford University, Emily Clark (editor), Radford University, Cari Mcgregor (editor), Radford University, Jacob Vaught (editor), Radford University, Genevieve Barnett (editor), Colorado State University.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


to jointly display, usually with sounds in a highly coordinated fashion, at the same time as one other individual of the same species, often a mate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


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Joshi, M. 2013. Bosses of the Wild. New Delhi, India: McGraw Hill Education Private Limited.

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Mulotwa, M., M. Louette, A. Dudu, A. Upoki, R. Fuller. 2010. Congo peafowl use both primary and regenerating forest in Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. Ostrich: The Journal of African Ornithology, 81/1: 1-6.

The Pheasant Specialist Group, 2000. Congo peafowl. Pp. 38-39 in R Fuller, P Garson, eds. Pheasants: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 2000-2004. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, United Kingdom: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Verheyen, W. 1965. Breeding the Congo peacock, Afropavo congensis, at Antwerp Zoo. International Zoo Yearbook, 5/1: 127-128.

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