A 'tail of two chicks' at Scone Palace

21 February 2014

Scone Palace, the crowning place of Scotland’s Kings, is famous for its colourful peacocks. These regal birds have been roaming the grounds for over 200 years and provide entertainment for the thousands of tourists who visit the Palace each year.

Now the resident flock is to be joined by some rather more unusual members, in the shape of two rare white peafowl chicks, or ‘peachicks’.

The year-old chicks, one male and one female, enjoyed a taste of their new home as they explored the Palace grounds for the first time this week.

Peachicks are born yellow in colour and become white as they mature. Although commonly thought of as albino, white peacocks, or peafowl as they are known, are in fact a genetic mutation of the more common Indian Blue Peafowl. This mutation, called ‘Leucism’, causes a lack of pigments in the plumage which in turn gives them their stunning pure white appearance. However, unlike albino birds they have blue eyes.

Peachicks are born with flight feathers already on their wings and can fly by the time they are one week old. When fully grown, the male will sport about 150 of the long "eyed" peacock feathers with which most of us are so familiar.  While most people think of these as the tail, they are in fact a train which covers the tail underneath. The feathers, which increase in size and number as the male matures, grow to be several feet long but are shed each year just after the breeding season and then re-grown.

Elspeth Bruce, Administrator at Scone Palace, said, “Our two white peachicks are set to be a big attraction for our visitors. Although we have several of the more usual multi-coloured birds, it’s the white peacocks that tend to attract the attention, as they’re quite rare.

“Peafowl are by nature sociable birds and enjoy each other’s company, so the environment here at Scone is ideal for them. Although in the wild they are polygamous, in captivity they tend to be happy with just one mate. Therefore we hope that once they reach maturity the chicks will go on to breed, helping us to sustain and grow our flock.

“Now that the chicks are developing their own characters and personalities, we’d like to ask for the public’s help in naming them. In the past, members of the flock have been named in honour of Scone’s royal heritage – for example Macbeth, Robert the Bruce and Mary Queen of Scots. To help us this time around, we’ll be holding a special naming competition over Easter Weekend when visitors can come and see the chicks and let us know their suggestions”.