Congo Peafowls

Scientifically known as Afropavo congensis, the Congo Peafowls (locally referred as Mbulu by Kongo people) are species of the peafowl that are endemic to the Congo Basin. They are one of the three surviving species of Peafowls, with the other two being the Indian peafowl (natively of Sri Lanka and India) as well as the green peafowl (endemic to Indochina and Myanmar).

Congo Peafowls are endemic to the Central Congolian lowland forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo where they have been named the National bird.

They are considered Vulnerable under IUCN’s Red List and very little is known about them. They were only recorded as a distinct species in 1936 by Dr. James Chapin after his unsuccessful search for the rare Okapi. This scientist observed that the local Congolese headdresses contained long reddish-brown feathers that he could not identify with any earlier known species of birds. He later visited the Royal Museum of Central Africa and identified two packed specimens with the same feathers marked as the Indian Peacock which he later discovered to be the Congo Peacock, an entirely different species.

In the year 1955, Dr. James Chapin was able to find 7 specimens of the species and it was found out that the Congo Peacock has physical characteristics of both peafowl and the guineafowl, which showed that the Congo Peacock has actually a link between the two peacock families.

Interestingly, the Congo peafowl is generally monogamous much as their detailed mating information is still insufficient.

These birds exhibit sexual dimorphism with the males being large (measuring from 64 to 70 centimeters/25 to 28 inches) long. Although are much less spectacular than their Asiatic cousins, the feathers of male peafowl are nonetheless deep-blue with metallic green and violet color. It also features bare-red neck skin, grey feet and black tails with at least 14 tail feathers and its crown is decorated with vertical white elongated hair-like feathers.

The females usually measure 60 to 63 centimeters (24 to 25 inches) in length and are generally chestnut brown in color with black abdomen, short chestnut-brown crest and metallic-green backs. Interestingly, both sexes resemble young Asian Peafowls, with early stuffed birds being mistakenly identified as such before they were officially classified as members of the unique species.

Just like other members of the Afropavo genus, the Congo peafowl are omnivorous with their diet mainly comprising of insects and fruits. The ones found within Salonga National Park are said to be taxonomically narrower within the secondary than primary forest.

You will notice that the male Congo peafowl has similar display to that of other species of Peafowls much as they are actually fans of their tail feathers while the other peacocks fancy their upper tail covert feathers.

Just like most wildlife and bird species in this country, the Congo Peafowls are threatened by the ongoing habitat loss through mining, shift cultivation as well as logging. As of 2013, their numbers were estimated at 2500 to 9000 individuals, which put their survival in jeopardy.