The Peacock Island is located close to the Wannsee at the Havel and a popular local recreation area for many city dwellers. Geographically, the Peacock Island is closer to Potsdam, however, officially the island belongs to Berlin. One popular main attraction on the Peacock Island are the free-roaming Indian peafowls. And this blog entry is exactly about these peafowls on the Peacock Island.
Wildlife in the city
Herring gulls and other large gulls at the Alexanderplatz. Red swamp crayfishes in the Tiergarten. And more wildlife like foxes or raccoons roaming through the streets of Berlin especially by night. Not to forget the zoo in the Tiergarten district and the animal park in Friedrichsfelde. Berlin seems to be a haven of peace for many animals. Thus, it is not surprising to find a small island in the southwest of Berlin where free-roaming common peafowls live.
Yes. All this sounds a little bit peculiar. As Indian peafowls come from a quite different part of the world. Actually they are from Asia. To be more precisely, they actually come from India and Sri Lanka.
But how did it come that free-roaming Indian peafowls now live on the Peacock Island? Well, in this blog entry I will tell you a little bit more about all this
Tip: Do you want to know more about wildlife in Berlin? If yes, why not listen to the podcast Hauptstadt-Dschungel? I wrote about this podcast in a previous blog entry. Unfortunately, the podcast is only in German, but if you understand some German, I can highly recommend to listen to the episodes.
Although many exotic animals have found a new home in Berlin, on my walks through the parks of Berlin I still rather observe local animals than exotic wildlife. Be it a great spotted woodpecker or a song thrush. But also small mammals like Eurasian squirrels often cross my path.
Sometimes I encounter exotic birds on my walks. Birds that have found anyhow a way to Berlin. Like for example the Mandarin duck. I often see them in the Volkspark Friedrichshain. A place with many visitors. Mandarin ducks are like Indian peafowls originally from Asia and not from Europe.
A few weeks ago I observed some Canada geese in Berlin for the first time. Now I see them more frequently in the Tiergarten. Canada geese originally come from North America, and thus, do not belong to the native avifauna in Berlin.
How did they reach Berlin? It is assumed that these birds escaped captivity. Probably they escaped from a zoo or from any other private enclosure. As they apparently like their new environment, their population could grow in Berlin and its surroundings.
On the following photographs you can see a Mandarin duck in the Volkspark Friedrichshain (on the left) and a Canada goose in the Tiergarten (on the right).
However, I don't intend to write more about all the exotic species that now live in Berlin. I will focus only on one species. A bird species. Namely, Indian peafowls.
At the same time I want to introduce the Peacock Island as a nice destination for a day-trip.
I will also follow the question: Why do Indian peafowls now live on the Peacock Island?
Question: Is there a place in Berlin where you observe many exotic wildlife? And what do you think about that? Or is there any other place on earth where you spot many non-native animals? Please let me know in the comments.
The Peacock Island in Berlin
"Artificial paradise". I heard these two words in the context of the Peacock Island. And yes. Maybe these words describe very well the island. Or maybe not? At least from my perspective the Peacock Island looks a little bit artificial. Well-tended gardens. No weed. And everything looks so perfect and clean. Every flower and every hedge at its place.
Thus, the small castle on the Peacock Island just perfectly fits into the idyllic landscape. A peaceful and quiet place unless many people visit the island. As the Peacock Island is also a place for long and beautiful walks, of course, many city-dwellers go to this small island - although the island has an area of only about 67 hectares, a length of 1.5 km and a width of 0.5 km.
Nevertheless, the Peacock Island is a beautiful place. Even though the place looks a little bit too perfect and anything but wild. But by all means, the Peacock Island deserves to be an UNESCO World Heritage since 1990. It is not only a beautiful place, it is also a place where many animals have found a safe haven. By the way, the island is protected by nature protection legislation, and thus, an interesting place for nature observations.
Interesting: If you want to know more which wildlife other nature observers have spotted on the Peacock Island, please check iNaturalist. On this online platform you can see that others have already spotted, for example, mute swans (Cygnus olor), goldcrests (Regulus regulus), bramblings (Fringilla montifringilla) or Eurasian nuthatches (Sitta europaea). Of course, you can also find spiders, insects, rodents and many more animals on the island.
I have visited the Peacock Island, because I wanted to see the birds that gave the island the name. When you enter the island, it should not take long to encounter the first Indian peafowl. I just followed the calls of them, and voilà, the first bird stood just in front of me.
I have visited the Peacock Island on a very hot day in June. As it was so hot and sunny, I was looking for every shady place to shelter from the sun. Luckily, I could find not only well-tended gardens on the island, but also many trees.
I took some time to observe the first Indian peafowl. I kept aloof from the bird, as I did not want to disturb. "Where would the bird go next?", I asked myself.
As it seemed to me, this Indian peafowl was kind of indecisive. In one moment it walked into one direction. And in another moment it moved towards the opposite direction.
I stood apart and took some photographs. Indian peafowls are very photogenic. The Peacock Island is already perfect. But the Indian peafowls, too.
I have to admit that I very enjoyed photographing these birds. They move slowly, and apparently, they are accustomed to visitors. Again. Anything but wild. They do not have (many) predators on the island, neither. Is this another reason why the Indian peafowls there are so tame?
Important: Please remember, pets are not allowed on the island. This rule is very important in order to protect the fauna on the Peacock Island. As several bird species breed on the island, it is especially important to follow this rule.
Nonetheless, I decided to continue. I heard already more Indian peafowls call. I passed through an area of forest where I could protect myself against the sun.
Just next to an aviary I spotted another Indian peafowl.
Although it was very quiet on the Peacock Island on that day (it was a weekday), I met some visitors. A landscape gardener was working nearby.
At the aviary, I learned more about the Indian peafowls on the Peacock Island and the reason why they live on the island.
The first Indian peafowls reached the Peacock Island in the year 1795. Since then the island bears its name. Today, about 30 free-roaming Indian peafowls live on the island. But there is furthermore a breeding compound where a male and five females live. According to the information board at the aviary, they breed six to eight Indian peafowls every year.
Interesting: Actually, the Peacock Island (German: "Pfaueninsel") should have been named "Kaninchenwerder", because Friedrich Wilhelm I. managed a rabbit breeding on the island. However, as Friedrich Wilhelm II. introduced Indian peafowls on the island, the name of the island became Peacock Island. The Indian peafowls that live on the island nowadays are their descendants.
The Indian peafowls that were brought to the island actually were chosen for the menagerie on the island at that time. The menagerie involved not only the aviary, but also enclosures for monkeys, kangaroos, lions, and bears. When the zoo in Berlin was established, all these animals were transferred to the zoo.
Today, Indian peafowls - blue and white - silky fowls, and golden pheasants live in the aviary.
An Indian peafowl male starts with his display in January. Courtship display may take until April. I would have loved to see a display. Unfortunately, in June it was already to late.
Interesting: A white Indian peafowl is not an albino, as the iris of a white bird is not red. The white color can be attributed to a genetic defect. This genetic defect is also know as leucism. By the way, white Indian peafowls do not occur in the wild.
Nevertheless, females lay eight to ten eggs after mating. After a breeding time of about 30 days, the chicks hatch.
Following hatching the chicks remain in an enclosure for about one year in order to protect them against their predators like the fox.
In June, I could not see any chick. Neither in the aviary.
Nonetheless, I stayed closed to the aviary. I sat down on a bench and observed the Indian peafowl just in front of me searching for food in the ground.
The bird came close to us visitors. Again, this Indian peafowl seemed to be used to visitors.
Now and then the bird looked around.
But finally, it vanished into the opposite direction and I lost its sight.
I also left the aviary behind to explore more places on the Peacock Island.
Practical information: Please bear in mind that bicycles are prohibited on the island. If you arrive by bike, you can leave it at the pier where the ferry leaves. Close to the pier you can also find a parking area, as the Peacock Island is, of course, car-free.
People say that the Peacock Island is a very romantic place. The castle on the island - which was built at the end of the 18th century - and the free-roaming Indian peacocks should provide a romantic place for the king and his beloved in the past. I guess, the Peacock Island had fulfilled all its objectives.
The Peacock Island was also used as a summer residence by the royal family. Summer residence fits perfectly to the island. And a temporal summer haven for a short trip nowadays. Although the island belongs to Berlin, it does not fell like being in a city.
Surrounded by trees and wonderful landscapes, I rather felt like being anywhere in the country.
There are more buildings on the Peacock Island that were instructed to be built by the royal family. For example, you can also find a dairy farm (German: "Meierei") on the island.
This dairy farm reminded me rather of a monastery. But indeed, this dairy farm belonged to a farmstead. In the past they milked cows in that building.
Just next to the dairy farm I encountered a grazing horse.
I continued with my walk and finally, I reached more buildings. Now I felt more like being on a farm.
Next to this farmstead I also encountered a cavalier house and a small temple (German: "Luisentempel"). While the dairy farm was built at the same time like the castle, the cavalier house was constructed a few years later.
On the left photograph you can see the small temple and on the right the cavalier house.
I also spotted some water buffalos close to the dairy farm and the temple.
Since 2010 they transfer water buffalos to the Peacock Island every year in summer from May to October. Water buffalos are necessary on the island in order to graze the wet meadows. These animals are perfectly adapted to a life on wet meadows with their hoofs. This way, they want to keep the grass short, and simultaneously, consider the protection of nature. Similar to the skuddes on the Tempelhofer Feld.
Interesting: In the 19th century the king received two water buffalos as a birthday present. Since then, there are water buffalos on the Peacock Island. The water buffalos lived in the farm building close to the dairy farm until 1842 when the menagerie was closed.
Nevertheless, the day was still hot and I was again looking for some shadow. The landscape where the water buffalos were grazing was beautiful, but I didn't stay for such a long time due to the hot sun.
In general, it was a very calm day on the Peacock Island. As mentioned before, it was a weekday. I saw few visitors and a school class. But often I was all by myself.
At the end of my walk, I encountered another Indian peafowl in the shadow of some trees.
I let myself drift along - but stopped and spent some time under the trees. Like the Indian peafowl.
And again. This was another apparently calm Indian peafowl anywhere on the island. I observed this bird for awhile. Waiting, moving, picking on the ground, or looking around.
As I also wanted to walk along the Wannssee on that day, I decided to finally leave the Peacock Island. At the pier I encountered another Indian Peafowl. Nevertheless, I left the island behind and decided to come back one day.
A species portrait: Indian peafowls
The Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus) has a very characteristic appearance, and thus, is hardly to be confused with other bird species. The bird belongs to the Asian peafowls Pavo. Another species of this genus is the green peafowl (Pavo muticus). Both peafowls resemble one another in appearance and belong to the family Phasianidae.
This bird family includes not only peafowls, but also pheasants, turkeys, chickens, partridges, or junglefowls. I encountered another bird of this family - a golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus) - once in a sanctuary in South Africa (but remember, the golden pheasant is also originally an Asian bird).
The family Phasianidae belongs to the order Galliformes. The order Galliformes comprises five families. One family is the Phasianidae. Two other families are the Cracidae and the Numididae. In Brazil I saw members of both families. I encountered three species of the Cracidae in the bird park Parques das Aves and a guineafowl of the Numididae in the Pantanal.
On the two photographs you can see a razor-billed curassow (Mitu tuberosum, on the left) and an helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris, on the right).
Interesting: The chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) belongs like the Indian peafowl to the Phasianidae and Galliformes. Other species that belong to the Phasianidae are grey partridges, common quails, wild turkeys, blackcocks and heather cocks.
Female and male Indian peafowls differ in appearance. Females are smaller and less colorful. Males, in contrast, do have long tail feathers. Males do display these tail feathers in a fan of a characteristic and elaborate eye-spot pattern. Their head, neck, and breast are colored in a metallic blue.
But both females and males do have one thing in common. Both have a crown on their heads.
Are Indian peafowls able to fly? Yes. They are. However, they are not able to fly long distances. In threatening situations Indian Peafowls rise into the air, but usually only to fly into the next tree in order to avoid a predator or other threats.
Indian peafowls are often kept as ornamental birds or as pets in zoological garden. But where do Indian peafowl originally come from?
Indian peafowls are native to the Indian subcontinent in countries like India and Sri Lanka, but also Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal or Pakistan. These birds prefer the jungle as a habitat.
According to the IUCN Indian peafowls are listed in the category of "Least Concern".
Their natural predators are leopards and tigers.
They are omnivores. They feed on grass seeds and fruits, but also on insects, small mammals and even young cobras.
Indian peafowls are - as already mentioned - often kept in zoological garden. Thus, I guess that the Indian peafowl is a bird which many people know.
Please check the following video by Avibirds about Indian peafowls to find more impressions of this bird.
Getting to the Peacock Island
The address of the Peacock Island is Nikolskoer Weg, 14109 Berlin. As the Peacock Island is an island located in the middle of the Havel, you need to take the ferry to get to the Peacock Island.
Usually, there is a ferry every 15 to 20 minutes. However, depending on the number of visitors, the timetable of the ferry might vary. The ferry can carry 150 visitors. You will find more information about the ferry on the website of the Peacock Island.
There is no entrance fee to get on the island. You just need to pay for the ferry. If you want to know more about the prices, please visit again the official website.
On the official website you will also find more information about the current opening hours. Please also visit the website of the" Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten", as opening hours might change last-minute.
It is easy to get to the Peacock Island by public transport. If you take bus number 218, you will get directly to the pier where the ferry leaves.
More information about the Peacock Island
Information about the Peacock Island on the official website of Berlin (only in German)
More information about the island on the website of the "Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg"
More about the Peacock Island on Wikipedia
Official website of the Peacock Island
More about the Indian peafowl on Wikipedia
More about the Indian peafowl on Tierdoku (only in German)
Have you already been on the Peacock Island? What did you like on the island? Please let me know in the comments.