Southern Florida Community Overrun by Peacocks

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The party soon may be over for some three dozen peacocks that have been strutting their stuff for over a decade in one Miami neighborhood, as residents are clamoring for the city to remove the birds they say are a menace to society.

Residents of Micanopy Avenue in Miami's lush Coconut Grove complained this week to Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoffabout about feces everywhere, as well as the piercing screeches that keep them up nights and are making them sick.

"All it takes is for a kid to step in the peacock poop, jump in the wading pool with other kids and then they all get sick," said nanny Martha Rubiano, who cares for a two-year-old boy with chronic problems with vomiting and dysentery. "Every time I turn around I'm cleaning up their poop."

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Residents are unsure how the peacocks came to the neighborhood, but they believe someone let a pair of pet peacocks loose in the 1980s. At first, residents enjoyed their attractive company, but then the population exploded.

"They're beautiful but there's just too many of them," said Graciela Castro, who has lived on Micanopy Avenue for 14 years. Castro says their loud squawking can be unbearable.
"We can't even sleep at night," she said.

Miami law protects the birds from trappers because the city is considered a bird sanctuary, and peafowl, as they are scientifically known, are not considered livestock.

Sarnoff says the city is exploring several different options to fix the peacock problem.

One plan is to relocate some birds to other neighborhoods interested in taking them in. Another is to put them up for adoption to bird activists with better facilities for keeping them in captivity. A third, more complex scenario would be to train the birds to quit trespassing on the property of those residents who want them gone.

"The city is willing to look into that. I don't know if they're willing to pay for it," Sarnoff said.

Dennis Fett, a self-proclaimed peacologist from Iowa who runs the Peacock Information Center Web site, said peacocks aren't a shy species and may even crave human company.

"They like being around people," he said. "They might even like people who hate them," he told

More than company, food available in the neighborhood may be keeping the peafowl close. Apart from flora, fauna, and bugs, they like the taste of pet food, which is in heavy supply at the yard of long-time resident Patty Ensign.

Ensign feeds dozens of the neighborhood's feral cats but provides food for the peacocks in "self defense" so they won't eat up the feast for her felines.

"If someone wants to pay to take them away, I'm fine with that," she said, as peafowl and their chicks flocked around food bowls on the front lawn. "There really are too many."

But Ensign and others also point to their perks: The birds slow down traffic where children are often at play. "I don't know if they're deaf or defiant, but they do make the cars wait," she said.

Fett says their hearing is above average, which makes them better than watchdogs.

"They'll sound a distress alarm if they hear anything out of the ordinary," he said. "I know of a peacock in Southern California whose yelling scared off a stalker."

Coconut Grove realtor and councilman Gary Hecht says the birds are also an attraction for prospective homebuyers.

"People who come looking for homes here are enchanted. They've paid to see peacocks at the zoo, and here they're just strolling the streets," he said. "They're passive, lovely creatures. They're part of this wonderful mosaic created by the most lush canopy in all of Florida."

Peacocks are native to India, not the southern United States, but certain temperate regions have seen their numbers multiply in the friendly climate.

While some residents aren't hopeful their problems will be solved any time soon, city officials have pledged to spend the next two months studying the situation to decide how best to address the peacock issue.