Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Yellow is for Chicks

I was enjoying lunch with a friend recently when this mother peahen and her baby chicks wandered nearby on the grounds just outside the window.

Seeing these baby peachicks was a new experience for me, so I quickly grabbed my camera and went outside to get some photos. Peachicks hatch from eggs that are about 3 times the size of a chicken egg, but smaller than a goose egg. Their feathers are yellow with touches of brown, and their legs are long.

Peafowl can refer to two species of birds: the Indian Peafowl from India and the Green Peafowl from Burma east to Java. The male peafowl is known as a peacock. This guy is an Indian Peafowl identified by his magnificent iridescent blue-green plumage.

The tail of the peacock is actually elongated covert feathers that cover the tail feathers. They have a series of "eyes" that are best seen when the tail is fanned. The peacock struts and fans his colorful plumage to attract the female.

The female Indian Peafowl is very different in appearance from her mate. Her feathers are dull brown or grey. Though she has a crest, she does not have the long showy upper tail coverts.

Peafowls nest on the ground, but roost in trees. These birds are omnivorous. They eat plants, insects, reptiles, and amphibians. The mother peahen will teach her chicks how to find food, which is likely what she was doing this day .

Upset with my presence, this mother peahen was very protective of her chicks and didn't like me getting close.

She fussed at me and then quickly turned to take her chicks elsewhere.

As a retired elementary teacher, children's literature has long been one of my true loves. I used to spend Sunday afternoons at favorite book stores looking through the children's section. These three picture books are not new, but rather favorites that I read time and again to my students. JUST PLAIN & FANCY by Patricia Polacco is a heart warming story of two young Amish sisters who find an unusual egg. They place the egg with their hens to be hatched and soon find this is no ordinary chick. It is a story of the plain ways of the Amish and the beauty of God's creatures. Mem Fox's FEATHERS & FOOLS is an allegorical tale of war between a "pride of magnificent peacocks" and "a flock of elegant swans." In the end no birds remain alive, though two eggs survive. Once hatched, the little peachick and cygnet recognize they are more alike than different. The two become friends, and "They went together, in peace and unafraid, to face the day and share the world." This story offers an excellent antiwar message. THE SPOOKY TAIL OF PREWITT PEACOCK by Bill Peet was written in the early 70s, but the storyline of being different continues to provide young children with a marvelous example. Bill Peet is a master storyteller.

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