The two species of peafowl most commonly bred in captivity, which most of you are familiar with, are the Pavo cristatus and the Pavo muticus peafowl; better known as the India Blue and Green peafowl. Both species of peafowl are native to South Asia. The green peafowl, Pavo muticus, consists of three very similar, but distinct subspecies: Pavo muticus-muticus, Pavo muticus-imperator, and Pavo muticus-spicifer. These subspecies may also be known by their English names: Javanese Green (m. muticus), Indo-Chinese Green (m. imperator), and Burmese Green (m. spicifer) peafowl. Although many experts concur that there are several more subspecies of Green peafowl, as many as 10, identification of the three most common is sufficient for this article. The three subspecies of Green peafowl are very similar in appearance and can be differentiated by an experienced breeder or most accurately by DNA testing. Most people refer to the Green peafowl generically as Java Greens, which is inaccurate, but for the purpose of this article I will refer to them simply as Green peafowl. I will also be referring to the species Pavo Cristatus simply as India Blue peafowl.
There are currently nine different colors of peafowl in addition to the India Blue and the Green. The neck of the cock bird determines the color of the bird. Therefore, as most of you know, the India Blue peacock's color is blue and the Green peacock's color is green. So, where did all the other colors come from? All other colors of peafowl are the result of genetic mutations that have occurred in the India Blue peafowl. A mutation occurs in the genetic makeup of a bird that affects the coloring of the feathers and results in different colored peafowl. The chance of a genetic mutation occurring is 1 in 1,000,000 and most of them go unnoticed. However, there are nine known distinct color mutations that have occurred in the India Blue peafowl. These colors, although not all yet recognized by the UPA, are White, Cameo, Purple, Charcoal, Opal, Bronze, Peach, Midnight, and Jade. These colors are the outcome of mutations that have occurred in the India Blue peafowl, (which if you recall is a different species than the Green peafowl), and as a result are all recessive colors. Recessive means that if these colored birds are bred to an India Blue, the dominant color Blue would be expressed and all the offspring would look like India Blue peafowl (some exceptions apply as in sex linked genes, but this info. will suffice for the this article). There are no records of any color mutations occurring in the Green peafowl. Although there have been rumors of a white mutation, I have yet to see any convincing evidence thereof.
In summary, all peafowl currently known are one of two species P. Cristatus or P. Muticus, or a hybrid between the two, and can be categorized as being one of these nine color mutations: White, Cameo, Purple, Charcoal, Opal, Bronze, Peach, Midnight, and Jade, or one of the two natural occurring colors: India Blue or Green. These nine color mutations plus the two wild occurring colors make the 11 possible peafowl colors.
Another differentiating physical trait in peafowl is known as the body pattern. Patterns and colors refer to two very different aspects of peafowl and genetically act completely separate from one another. Peafowl can carry and express a particular body pattern and it will not affect the identifying color of the cock birds neck. A body pattern can be described as the way the colors of the peafowl's body feathers are patterned. For example, the India Blue peafowl have what is called a barred wing pattern. This is the distinctive vertical black and white zebra like stripes on the wings. A peacock's wings are also commonly referred to as the shoulders. The barred wing pattern is the original pattern and is present in the two wild occurring species birds. This barring pattern is present in the Green peafowl, but usually only occurs on the inner most feathers of the wings, is much darker in color, and is far less distinctive than on the India Blue's.
Much like color mutations described in the previous section, there have been four known pattern mutations that have occurred in the India Blue peafowl. These four pattern mutations are known as Black shoulder (Solid winged), Pied, White-eyed, and Silver pied. The Black shoulder pattern mutation changes the pattern of the wings of the India Blue cock bird from barred to solid colored. It affects the hens by changing their overall body from a brownish color to a creamy white with colored speckles throughout the body, but the identifying color on the back of the hens neck remains the same.
The Pied pattern mutation creates a lack of pigmentation in the bird's feathers and causes the birds to have random splotches of white throughout the entire body, both on the hen and the cock. Pied birds are most frequently about 60% colored and 40% white.
The White-eyed pattern mutation causes the ocellis, or eyes, in the cock bird's train to be white. It also causes a varying number of body feathers to either be white or turn white as it matures. The White-eyed pattern mutation is much less distinct in the hen because the lack of a train, but does cause some body feathers to turn white and gives the overall tone of the body a frosted look. This frosty look is also present in the cock birds. The easiest way to identify the white-eyed gene in hens is to look for the distinctive flickering of white at the end of body feathers that are usually spread throughout the bird's body. The White-eyed gene is more complicated than what is discussed in this article, but this information gives you a general idea of how it works and how to identify it.