It’s all fun and feathers until someone gets hurt.
Los Angeles County officials are pleading with residents to refrain from feeding the hundreds of wayward peacocks across its cities. Locals say the creatures are “polarizing” some of the Southern California communities, eliciting treats from some neighbors and running afoul of others.
The flamboyant land fowl native to South Asia and Central Africa are a popular zoo attraction, but they’re also frequently kept as pets in the US — particularly in LA, where they’re often spotted roaming the streets untethered, according to local reports.
The pandemic has prompted a poultry-population boom, as new or inexperienced owners have failed to prevent their tenacious peacocks from seeking peahens, their female counterparts who sport a more muted look.
Though an official count has not been reported, it’s estimated there are local populations of many hundreds in some parts of LA County, namely Pasadena.
“They wake me up at dawn. They sound like babies being tortured through a microphone, a very large microphone,” said East Pasadena resident Kathleen Tuttle, 68, according to a Washington Post report.
Not all neighbors agree. “I love them,” said Nancy Adams, 67. “I know there’s people here that don’t like them. I say, ‘Why don’t you move?’”
Posses of peacocks — referred to as “a muster,” “an ostentation” or even “a party” — are known to wantonly traipse through yards and gardens and make a mess of peoples’ lawns.
Wildlife expert and former Los Angeles Zoo curator Mike Maxcy explained why peafowl — the term for all genders of the birds we colloquially call peacocks — can be such a nuisance. “The problem is when you have 13 or 14 birds living in your backyard, they poop on your deck, destroy your flower gardens, break your roof tiles, and this time of year, breeding season, the males call most of the night and all day,” he told LA’s NBC4.
In a measure to curb their proliferation, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is setting up a vote to ban feeding the peafowl. If the public ordinance should come to pass, those caught intentionally feeding the birds will be fined $1,000 or sentenced to six months in jail.
“People should not be feeding these peacocks, pure and simple,” LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger told WaPo. “Some of the people are coming from a good place,” she added of those who have supported the animals. “But it’s not good for that population. And it is adding to the numbers that we’re seeing.”
Celebrities and otherwise powerful people have long been known to collect the dazzling birds at their lavish Hollywood homes and suburban estates across the country. Just last month, Martha Stewart boasted on social media that she has 21 “glorious” peacocks at her home in Bedford, New York.
There have been previous attempts at a solution to this avian anarchy in LA, including a relocation effort that was thwarted by an outbreak of Newcastle disease, a form of bird flu, which forced all fowl into quarantine.
Their sometimes menacing presence has also prompted a violent backlash against the unsuspecting creatures, including hit-and-runs, poisonings and hunting. However, these vigilantes could also be fined up to $20,000 if caught as the animal’s killer, according to a 2014 LA Times report.
“It’s the most polarizing thing I’ve ever been involved with,” Maxcy said. “Seventy percent of the population hate them and want them out. Thirty percent love and cherish them.”