A peacock’s multi-colored tail feathers are its most distinctive feature.
But, according to new research, they may also help to keep them hidden from predators in the wild.
While it might seem that these feathers would attract the attention of other animals, experts say their native threats, including big cats, lack the color receptors needed to distinguish a peacock’s tail from its surroundings.
Researchers argue the point in a new paper published pre-print to bioRxiv.
According to the team, a peacock’s feathers may not stand out quite as much to animals in the wild, such as tigers or stray dogs, as they would to the human eye.
‘Feathers perceived by humans to be vividly colorful are often presumed to be equally conspicuous to other mammals, and thus to present an enhanced predation risk,’ the researchers write.
‘However, many mammals that prey on adult birds have dichromatic visual systems with only two types of color-sensitive visual receptors (one sensitive to ultraviolet light), rather than the three characteristic of humans and four of most birds.’
As a result, the researchers argue, a male peacock’s tail feathers may allow them to show off for a potential mate without catching the eye of predators.
In the study, the team investigated how peacocks’ tail feathers would appear to predators and to other birds of their kind.