Faculty of Arts

The Arts Peacocks

Further information

One of Arts peafowl

The Faculty of Arts is home to a small family of peacocks.

While generally referred to as peacocks they are in fact peafowl, as peacock refers to the male bird (with peahen and peachick describing the female and offspring respectively).

Three peacocks and two peahens currently live in the New Fortune Theatre.

How did they get here?

A small flock of two peacocks and three peahens was donated to the University in 1975 by Sir Laurence Brodie Hall, with the intention that they would live in the Great Court in front of Winthrop Hall.

One peacock was run over soon after, one peahen settled in Hackett Hall and was never seen again, one peahen made her way to Monash Avenue in Shenton Park and then disappeared and one mating pair made a home for themselves in the New Fortune Theatre in the Faculty of Arts. The male of that pair, called Andrew, lived in the Faculty for more than 30 years.

Are the white ones albinos?

Definitely not. They are a normal genetic variety. At present, we have three sexually-mature blue males, and one of them is genetically termed a hybrid - this means that he holds one blue and one white gene, with blue being dominant. One of our 'normal' coloured peahens, is also a hybrid and so whenever the hybrids mate we have a one in four chance of seeing white peachicks hatched.

Without the tell-tale transition from brown to blue in the first year of a young male's life, it is difficult to tell if the white peafowl are male or female until male birds grow the long train typical of their gender. This can take two to three years!

Do they have names?

The birds do all have names. We have two brown peahens called Susan and Penny. Our oldest male is called Eddy. He was named after Sir Edmund Hillary because he liked to climb things when he was a chick. The middle male is called Alistair. No one can quite remember why we called him that. The youngest male is Vern, after a former caretaker's father.

Other peafowl that were part of the family at the Arts Building:

  • Andrew - believed to be one of the original ones first introduced to the University. Sadly Andrew did not survive a dog attack in 2009.
  • Ann - the oldest peahen, passed away in early 2011.
  • Alex - the only white hen, named after the Alexander Lecture Theatre which she wandered into as a very young chick, passed away in November 2012.

How do you control the numbers?

Our ideal flock size is five (four females and one male) so when the numbers grow we have to find new homes for the extras. Many people ask us if they can have or buy peacocks from us. If there are extras available, we are happy to give the peacocks to new owners once we are satisfied that the new home is appropriate (a large enclosure is necessary for inital housing). It is not appropriate to keep peacocks in suburban backyards. Typically they go to farms or properties where they can be kept in large enclosures with high roosting points (preferably trees) at night and be let out free to roam around and explore during the day.

At present, we have the less-than-ideal combination of three male and two female birds, but they all seem to tolerate each other quite well.

Can they be fed by visitors?

We don't encourage feeding the peafowl as we need to control their diets, and they will also sharply peck the food out of your fingers. However, if you are especially keen, the peacocks can safely be given small pieces of apple, banana, celery leaves or a few breadcrumbs.