Sun shines down from a cloud speckled blue sky. Birds sing and flowers bloom and pollen coats any surface unlucky enough to exist in its presence. Springtime has come to Andalusia. As we all know, spring is when a young bird’s fancy turns to thoughts of love, and there is no more twitterpated bird than Astor the peacock. His tail has sprouted and lengthened beautifully, golden suns dot each iridescent feather and visitors fawn over it when he fans it out. I’ve delayed the start of tours so that guests could see Astor in action and take multitudes of photos and videos. In fact, the only one who isn’t enraptured by Astor’s new tail is his peahen companion, Mrs. Shortley. Unfortunately for Astor, Mrs. Shortley is the only peahen for miles around and, although they share the same aviary pen, she could not care less about his advances.
This doesn’t stop Astor from trying. There have been many occasions where I hear him let loose a piercing mating call from my station in the Gift Shop. Once on a tour, I was giving my spiel on the front porch and describing the call when it rang out around the corner (I could not have asked for better timing). Yes, Astor calls to Mrs. Shortley a lot in the spring, which is the equivalent of shouting “I LIKE YOU” at someone only a few feet away. Mrs. Shortley is a refined young lady and doesn’t react to these crass outbursts. Astor must then resort to his ace in the hole, the mating dance.
I’ve seen Astor fan his tail in two different ways. The first and most common method is where he fans the tail while it’s down and flexes it up into the prominent spread position. The second way is where he raises the tail up while it’s “closed”, then he shakes it out into the fanned arrangement. When it’s deployed, the tail looks like a half-dome. It curves over Astor like a satellite dish and all “eyes” on the tail focus on a single target. Mrs. Shortley walks past him without stopping. The dance continues. Astor turns the dome away from her and you can see his little wings waggling back beside his hindquarters. It looks like he’s playing hard to get, but when she wanders back into his field of view, he turns the dome back onto her with full force. The feathers vibrate at this point and emit a somewhat unnerving rustling sound, like gusts tearing through leaf covered branches. Mrs. Shortley continues ignoring him and he slowly turns away again. The wings waggle again, and he takes a few awkwardly angled side-steps back towards her, then repeats the process.
It’s an impressive display, in my opinion, but Mrs. Shortley cannot be bothered to even acknowledge it. Come to Andalusia in the springtime and you may be lucky enough to see this ritual of unrequited love.