Thursday 25 July 2013

The Peacock's Tail Explained

So that's sorted then - the scientists have explained why the peacock's tail is the way it is. They've come up with this explanation after tracking the eye movements of peahens and finding them easily distracted. Hmm... Have they tried that on other female birds, I wonder? Like most of us in London, I've spent many years involuntarily observing the indefatigable mating behaviour of our 'flying rats', the pigeons - and the females seem so easily distracted that they rarely pay any attention at all to the males. Yet all it takes is a little work with the chest feathers ('In the spring a livelier iris glistens on the burnished dove'), a bit of tail-fanning and bowing and scraping and - wham bam thankyou ma'am. And, by the way, why is it so important for the peahens to keep an eye out for predators but not for the peacocks, even though they'd have to get away while lugging their mighty tails after them.
  Anyway, talking of peacocks, the amazing (if late-starting) butterfly summer continues. The patch of parched flower meadow by Kensington Palace now has burnet moths in residence, meadow browns (as well as whites) visiting, and small skippers nectaring happily. Nearer to home, gatekeepers are everywhere, and this morning I counted five small skippers on the long grass beside the railway track - they seem to be having a bumper year. Heaven know what else I might find if I make it out to serious butterfly country this weekend, as I'm hoping to do...


  1. Popular Darwinism is the gift that just keeps on giving, isn't it? But do you know what is really depressing? It's bad enough that ostensibly serious scientists would associate themselves publically with such fantastic fairy-tales. What is really chilling is when you challenge them with any one of several dozen objections and they look at you with defiant eyes and say something like: "Well, of course future research may falsify this theory, but until then it's the best evidence-based explanation we have, and therefore we must give it credence". And then the coup de grace: "What is your theory of why the peacock evolved its plummage?".

  2. I have noticed how, when i engage a woman in conversation, she continually swivels her eyes, left, right, left again, over my shoulders, searching, often successfully, for someone more interesting to spend the evening with...i'm sure it annoys a peacock as much as it annoys me, but that's life!