The blue Beauties on Peacock Island, Berlin

Around 30 free-ranging Blue Peacocks live on Peacock Island in Berlin. They are descendants of the peacocks that King Frederick William II brought to the island in 1795. Those peacocks formed the basis for a menagerie on the island. More than 800 exotic animals once lived on the little island in lake Wannsee. Later, in the year 1842, most of them were handed over in to the newly founded Berlin Zoo.
Blue Peacock on Peacock Island in Berlin

Germany, Berlin. Actually, Blue Peacocks live in the savannahs of India, South Asia and Indonesia. But already at the time of ancient Rome, peacocks were bred outside their area of distribution as a kind of garden decoration. Moreover, fashion-conscious ladies have always known how to decorate themselves with the beautiful peacock feathers as a fashion accessory.

In the late 18th century there was also peacock breeding on the Sacrow estate near Berlin. From there, King Frederick William II brought the first peacocks to the island in Wannsee in 1795. Since then, the little island in Lake Wannsee has been called “Peacock Island”. But the tranquil calm of the former summer residence of the royal family has now given way to the excitement of countless day-trippers. And the peacocks? They are hardly impressed even by the hustle and bustle on a sunny spring day.

From the Menagerie on Peacock Island to Germany's first Zoo

With the exotic peacocks, King Frederick William II formed the basis for the menagerie, which his son Frederick William III further expanded in the following years. There was a monkey house, a bear pit, enclosures for lions, kangaroos, lamas, marmots, reindeer, wolves as well as aviaries for birds such as owls, eagles, falcons, parrots or ostriches. More than 800 animals once lived on the island.

But the heir to the throne, Frederick William IV, did not share his father’s passion for exotic animals. In 1842, he donated most of the animals as well as buildings and facilities to the newly founded Zoological Society of Berlin. This laid the foundation for the Berlin Zoological Garden, which opened its doors in 1844 as Germany’s first zoo. The peacocks alone remained on the island as an exotic reminder.

The Offspring of the royal Peacocks today

However, in the second half of the 19th century, most of the houses of the menagerie burned down. A remaining of the former menagerie is the aviary. This was built in 1824, based on English models. The historical aviary was restored from 2009 to 2011. Presently, the building ist used to keep various types of fowl and pheasants. These include Blue and White Peacocks, chickens and Golden Pheasants.

The building originally housed local and exotic birds, including White Peacocks, Eurasian Spoonbills and larks.
White peacocks are kept in one of the aviaries. The white peacock is not an albino peacock. The white coloration is a genetic defect called leucism.

Every year, about eight to ten peacock chicks grow up on Peacock Island. The young peacocks stay in the safe environment of the aviary for about a year in order to protect them from foxes, crows, martens and raccoons. Then they are released onto the island to mingle with their 30 or so fellow peacocks. After three years, the young birds are sexually mature and the typical splendor plumage of the males begins to grow. The aim of breeding is to ensure the peacock population on the island in the future.

About two thirds of the peacocks are roosters. They impress not only the hens, but also every visitor with their colorful wheels, which are shown during the peacock courtship from January to April. Unfortunately, I was a little late on the island, so I missed the courtship this year.

Blue Peacock on Peacock Island in Berlin

Can peacocks fly? Despite their size and long tail, male peacocks can actually fly. However, neither far nor high. In case of danger, they take refuge in the bushes or seek shelter in a tree. They also spend the night in trees, where they are protected from predators.

Blue Peacock on Peacock Island in Berlin

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The peacock as a symbol of beauty, wealth, royalty, pride and love, but also of immortality, arrogance and vanity, has always occupied a special position in the animal kingdom. Myths and legends of different cultures and epochs entwine around him.

Quick Facts about Blue Peacocks

  • Scientific name: Pavo cristatus
  • Family: Pheasants (Phasianidae), order chicken birds
  • Length: Male: 100 – 120 cm (adult, from beak to tail), female: 95 cm (adult).
  • Weight: Male: 4 – 6 kg (adult), female: 2.8 – 4 kg (adult)
  • Length tail feathers: up to 1.5 meters
  • Life expectancy: 10 – 25 years (in the wild)
  • Endangerment: according to IUCN the blue peacock is considered “not endangered
  • Enemies: tigers, leopards and man (in India the peacock is also kept as a meat supplier)
  • Clutch: 4-6, maximum 8 eggs
female blue peacock
Sorry, ladies. But the beauty contest will be won by the guys this time.

In Persian poetry, the peacock symbolizes beauty and pride, but also imperfection. This is because of the large, ugly feet and the limited ability of the beautiful and proud animal to fly.

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One of Berlin's first Nature Reserves

Peacock Island is actually a large landscape park designed by landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenné. Wide expanses of lawn are dotted with groups of trees, and alternate with closed stands of forest. The banks are lined with dense stands of reeds. Even though the nature is designed, it is still home to rare plants and animals, such as century-old oaks, bats, greater heron and hermit. The island is also one of the areas in Berlin that is richest in bird species.

In the early 1920s, plans were developed to parcel out the island and build villas on it. What a great loss that would have been for nature! But at the instigation of Wolfgang Stichel, the island was instead designated as one of Berlin’s first nature reserves on February 28, 1924. Since 1990, the island has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is also listed as an FFH area.

In addition to nature and the Blue Peacocks, the island’s historic buildings are also well worth seeing. A gleaming white castle on the shore, the Kavalierhaus or the Meierei with the horse stables are interesting destinations for excursions all year round.

A truly royal train!

Visit the Peacock Island

From Wannsee S-Bahn station, bus 218 runs to the ferry dock to the Peacock Island (Pfaueninsel). For those arriving by car, there is a small parking lot.

The ferry runs from 10 am to 6 pm every 20 minutes and costs 4 euros round trip. Tickets can be purchased online beforehand or on site at the ticket machine (card payment only) or on the ferry itself (cash payment only).

No cars, bicycles or pets are allowed on the island.

For the small hunger there is a pub at the ferry pier and a snack bar at the sunbathing lawn in the middle of the island. There are also public toilets.

The landscape park on Peacock Island, designed by master gardener Peter Joseph Lenné, is accessible via a well-developed network of paths.
Peacock Island Ferry
The Peacock Island Ferry connects Peacock Island in the Havel River with the mainland. The crossing takes only a few minutes.

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