Peacocks might use their showy tails for covert communication

Can you see me?

Can you see me?

Marcel van Kammen/Minden

Peacock tails are brightly coloured and highly conspicuous – but maybe not to their predators. The animals that hunt peacocks have poor colour vision and, to their eyes, the birds’ tails may actually help them blend into the background.

However, it is not clear whether this colour-based camouflage helps the peacocks much, because they make themselves noticeable in so many other ways.

Peacocks are male Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus). When they court the female peahens, they display an enormous tail decorated with iridescent eyespots. All else being equal, peahens prefer …