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Roaming peacocks plague California city: ‘They’re a nuisance, but they’re beautiful’

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Evil Genius/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Evil Genius/Alamy

Dozens of feral peacocks and peahens are roaming the streets and leaping from the rooftops of Tracy, California. They claw at shingles and defecate on porches. Their calls, especially in mating season, echo through the community. They have no fear of pets nor people.

Errant peafowl have milled around the city’s Redbridge neighborhood for years – some believe they originally came from a now-defunct nearby dairy farm – but the numbers have increased as the birds keep multiplying. Now they’re everywhere, and ruffling some residents’ feathers.

“I’ll have like eight of them sitting on my porch railing pooping,” said Stephanie Voress, proprietor of the Redbridge General Store. “They’re a nuisance, but they’re beautiful.”

In recent weeks, some community members decided that something had to be done. The homeowners association of Redbridge, a gated community, has proposed to humanely relocate about 30 to 40 peafowl through a deal with the city and a contract with Bay Area Wildlife Services.

The homeowners association says it’s hoping to finalize an agreement between the government of Tracy, a city of about 90,000 people located about 60 miles east of San Francisco, and the Redbridge community to split the cost of the intended relocation – which is estimated at around $30,000. Tracy city council and animal services did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s requests for comment. The homeowners association is weighing a number of options on where to send the birds if the relocation plan goes through, but insists that it’s time the peafowl find a new home.

“If this were a pack of 100 rats that were scuffling around the yard or on the roof, no one would wait to deal with that problem,” said Dave Lieberman, president of the Redbridge Homeowners Association. “Unfortunately the peacocks are beautiful birds, you want to admire them, but in these numbers they can be destructive.”

Peacocks are known for their iridescent plumage marked with blue and green eyespots, but they are also large birds that grow up to 13 pounds and often move in groups. The males can make a distinctive shrieking noise.

“They have a peculiar kind of cry that sounds like a baby wailing. It’s a little distressing,” Lieberman said. “It starts early in the morning, it’s loud and then they land on the roofs.”

Residents have taken issue with the peafowl because of damage to their houses, scratches on cars and the noise from their squawks and rooftop roosting. And then there is the rampant defecation.

“The poop is huge,” Voress said. “It comes out like soft serve.”

Other areas of California have faced similar problems with peafowl in recent years, sometimes deeply polarizing communities over what to do with them. Earlier this year, stalled relocation efforts during the pandemic led to hundreds of feral peacocks free on the lawns and rooftops of Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley. Some residents became enchanted with the brightly colored birds, defying mandates against feeding them, while others developed a deep hatred of the peacock population and resorted to vigilante attempts to cull their numbers – running them down with cars or attempting to poison them.

Much like in Southern California, there’s a contentious debate over the peacocks and peahens in Redbridge. Some residents like the birds and hope to keep them around, with Lieberman saying he has video of homeowners tossing feed for peacocks out kitchen windows. On the social media platform NextDoor, residents say the neighborhood is split between those who think the birds are an attractive addition to the community and those who are adamant that the birds have got to go.

“I’m kind of neutral on it, because I do think they’re gorgeous,” Voress said. “But they do mess up my porch pretty badly.”

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