Podcast

Hear the Sound of Peacock Love Made by Trembling Feathers

Male peacocks quiver their tails to produce a drumroll-like rustle—and also a vibration meant only for female peahens.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of The National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide. 

Transcript:

This is BirdNote.

A peacock’s tail is magnificent. Four or sometimes even five feet in length, when opened it’s an iridescent wonder, shimmering and covered in giant spots. 

And, as it turns out, when it comes to that wonderful tail, there’s even more than meets the eye.
 
As this male Indian Peafowl quivers his outstretched tail, it creates a rustling sound, almost like a drumroll.

Scientists call this the peacock’s “train rattle.” You might also call it the sound of peacock love.

That train rattle is also causing a vibration in the air that we humans can’t feel. But female peacocks, or peahens, can. 

That low frequency rumble hits the sweet spotalso known as the resonant frequencyof both the male’s and female’s crest feathers. They start to vibrate in unison.  

Peafowl also do a special wing shake, which seems to hit that same sweet spot.  

Scientists aren’t quite sure how the train-rattle love buzz fits into peacock mating behavior. But for the first time, we’re starting to listen in.

For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.

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Credits:

Producer: John Kessler

Managing Producer: Jason Saul

Editor: Ashley Ahearn

Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone

Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill

Narrator: Mary McCann

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by Paul Marvin.

Peacock tail rustle by Alea Kittell. http://www.bamboopeacock.com

Special thanks to Suzanne Amador Kane and Roslyn Dakin for their recordings and assistance. https://www.haverford.edu/users/samador and https://roslyndakin.com/ 

BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2019 BirdNote   July 2019

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