Hassle in Los Angeles County: Too Many Peacocks

Los Angeles district officials have a request: Please don’t feed the peacocks.

In this slice of Southern California, peacocks (a term that includes male peacocks with iridescent tails and the duller peacock chickens that chase them) aren’t limited to zoos. They stroll through the suburban streets or fan their feathers on manicured lawns.

Some people like to feed them. Others think the creatures are a nuisance. They are sometimes aggressive and often loud. They can destroy flower beds, drop poop on rooftops, and smash shiny surfaces if they mistake their own reflections for rivals.

Los Angeles County’s board of directors is expected on Tuesday to call for an ordinance to be drawn up that would discourage people from feeding peacocks.

Kathryn Barger, the supervisor of the application, said in an interview that she hoped he would educate people and discourage them from feeding. Residents are known to give birds everything from breadcrumbs to bird food to dog food, she said.

It’s not good for peacocks or for humans.

“It encourages them to stay,” said Francine Bradley, a poultry specialist emeritus at the University of California, Davis. “And because these birds are not native, they destroy native habitats.”

Ms Barger said the peacock population appeared to have exploded in the last year, in part due to an avian disease called virulent Newcastle disease, which resulted in bird quarantine (unrelated to the coronavirus) that hampered efforts to evict the birds from residential areas to make them more suitable Habitats.

The moves, which resumed this year, are part of a humane process that does not involve destruction, she added.

“This is about relocating the males so we can thin out the population,” she said, “so we can live in a balanced way with the peacocks who live in the community.”

Peacocks, imported to California from their native habitats in South Asia, were once considered a status symbol for conspicuous landowners in and around the San Gabriel Valley.

Some say the birds were first brought to the area by Elias J. Baldwin, a speculator and entrepreneur named Lucky, who started a sprawling ranch in what is now the town of Arcadia in the late 19th century. Others believe the modern flocks of birds descended from birds collected by Victor McLaglen, the rugged actor who appeared in decades of Hollywood movies.

Ranchers used the omnivorous birds to keep pests under control and to act as guard dogs; their piercing screams could warn landowners of intruders. But when the California landscape changed around them, the peacock persisted.

“When this part of Southern California went from ranchos to ranchettes and then to tiny suburban backyards, things got out of hand,” said Dr. Bradley. “They can be extremely destructive.”

The Baldwin Ranch eventually became the site of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, which is still home to many peacocks and attracts tourists to enjoy the birds’ fabulous plumage. (Arcadia already has an ordinance against feeding peacocks, the Washington Post reported, but there’s no indication that it has been strictly enforced.)

Feeding peacocks can make them overly aggressive, said Richard Schulhof, the arboretum’s executive director. The birds are wild animals, he said, that can make their own feasts from plants, seeds, beetles, frogs and snakes.

They can be particularly noisy during the mating season, which occurs in spring. “I can just hear it outside my window,” said Mr Schulhof. “It’s an interesting sound. I can understand that some people would refuse to hear the peacocks scream when they are very close. The volume is very loud. “

Ms. Barger said peacocks on their own property greeted them early in the morning with their piercing cries.

“I saw one of the peacocks get hit by a car,” she added. “I know the noise they make. I know the poop they leave behind and the fact that they can really wreak havoc on your roof. “

Their motion would give district officials 90 days to suggest a language for an ordinance, which the board of directors would then vote on. It would apply to unincorporated areas in the county – not cities that can issue their own ordinances – and it remains unclear how the measure would be enforced.

“This is a long-standing problem and people weigh in on either side,” Ms. Barger said, adding that she hoped a disheartening feeding regime would help reduce the peacock population to manageable levels.

“You will still be part of the community,” she said. “That’s the way it is.”

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