Expert says peacocks' legs, lower feathers and dance attract most attention during courtship

Feb 07, 2014 by Elizabeth K. Gardner
A peahen wearing eye-tracking equipment watches a peacock. Purdue researcher Jessica Yorzinski studied the visual attention of peahens during courtship. Credit: Jessica Yorzinski

(Phys.org) —Although peacocks are famous for tall tail feathers with colorful eyespots, an expert says peahens look lower when sizing up a male and that dance moves may give a suitor an edge.

Jessica Yorzinski, a researcher at Purdue University, is using and tiny cameras mounted on a customized cap to get a bird's-eye view and discover what attracts the most .

"Surprisingly, the peahens are looking at the lowest edge of and aren't paying much attention to the rest of the five-foot tall displays," said Yorzinski, who is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biological Sciences. "According to our study, the females' gaze rarely fell at or above the peacocks' heads. Of the small portion of time spent looking at the males, females looked longest at the legs and lower portion of the train."

The peacocks have a tough time keeping a peahen's attention as she evaluates her surroundings for food and predators, but the peacocks did have one way to turn heads, Yorzinski said.

"What garnered the most attention from the peahens was when the peacocks would turn around and shake their wings and rattle their tails during the courtship dance," she said. "It seems that mastering certain dance moves is important for peacocks."

Yorzinski's study of 12 peahens followed their gaze in the presence of multiple males vying for attention during the mating season. It did not evaluate which males won a mate.

This image shows the tracks of a peahen's gaze as a peacock makes a courtship display. Purdue researcher Jessica Yorzinski uses eye-tracking technology to study avian behavior. Credit: Jessica Yorzinski

A paper detailing Yorzinski's study was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. She is currently evaluating the results of an experiment that tracked what watch and attune to during courtship.

A better understanding of peafowl's visual perception could help in understanding avian behavior and lead to improvements in the protection of endangered species, she said.

Explore further: Rules of attraction: Catching a peahen's eye

More information: Jessica L. Yorzinski, Gail L. Patricelli, Jason S. Babcock, John M. Pearson and Michael L. Platt "Through their eyes: selective attention in peahens during courtship." J Exp Biol 2013 216:3035-3046. ; DOI: 10.1242/jeb.087338

Related Stories

Rules of attraction: Catching a peahen's eye

Jul 24, 2013

Getting the undivided attention of a female is tough at the best of times but it's even harder when surrounded by other male suitors. It's no wonder males often resort to ostentatious displays to distinguish themselves from ...

Peacock love songs lure eavesdropping females from afar

Dec 20, 2012

Deep in the scrublands of Keoladeo National Park in northwest India, one thing was hard for biologist Jessica Yorzinski to ignore: It wasn't the heat. It wasn't the jackals. It was the squawks of peacocks ...

For peacocks, the eyespots don't lie

Apr 27, 2011

Male peacock tail plumage and courtship antics likely influence their success at attracting and mating with females, according to recent Queen's University research.

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

14 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...