The Miami Herald reports on the infestation of peacocks in the Miami suburb of Coconut Grove and other neighborhoods, including my own.
Beneath the oak canopy, residents who lived for decades in a cozy, peaceful, jasmine-scented corner of north Coconut Grove walked dogs, tended gardens, exchanged recipes and followed the love-thy-neighbor commandment.
Then the peacocks moved in. And multiplied. When they weren’t fanning their regal plumage they produced prodigious piles of poop. They howled and shrieked at all hours. They pecked at the shiny paint of cars — birdbrains who mistook their reflection for a rival. They ate flowers. They pried off roof shingles. They paraded in packs. They roosted in trees and dug dusty holes in green lawns. They had chicks, who grew into defecating, squawking, scratching, denuding adults.
Double-decker tour buses began rolling through the lush lanes, disgorging passengers who took pictures and dropped cigarette butts in front yards.
Today, the neighborhood stands divided. A nasty feud has pitted those who adore and feed cat food to the pretty peacocks they’ve nicknamed Cookie and Peg Leg Pete against those who loathe and shun the nuisance birds. They have called the cops, accusing neighbors of poisoning or abusing peacocks. They’ve tattled to code enforcement for revenge.
“Arguments, insults, fistfights — it’s out of control, just like the peacock population is out of control,” said Frank Cabreja, former chair of the Coconut Grove Quality of Life Coalition who lives on Natoma Street. “Our street is an example of the conflict between people who think they are cute and people like me who see this as a serious health and hygiene problem. If we were talking about ugly rats instead of beautiful birds, something would be done. Let’s not wait until there’s a horrible incident between emotional neighbors.”
All because of the peacock, or — to use the less sexist term that includes peahens — peafowl, which is the national bird of India, a spectacular creature with its iridescent blue and green coloring, long tail feathers with distinctive eye markings and crowned head that makes it look like a bejeweled invitee to a royal ball.
The peacock was likely introduced to the Grove by homeowners who wanted a stunning yard ornament. They’ve proliferated to Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, up north to El Portal, down south to Palmetto Bay, causing tension wherever they flock.
Nobody from the city of Miami, Miami-Dade County or state seems to know what to do about them because the city is considered a bird sanctuary and county law prohibits tampering with eggs or trapping and removing peafowl unless they are transferred to a protected place.
Even Ron Magill, the Zoo Miami communications director who would never hurt a fly —and would probably build a fly conservation area if he could — does not understand the preoccupation with feeding wild peacocks — an absolute no-no. Like pythons and lionfish, peafowl are non-native species that have upset the equilibrium of nature — and neighborhoods.
“South Florida is a Club Med for exotic, invasive animals,” he said. “People think that instead of a plastic pink flamingo they can have a peacock in their yard. But peacocks do not belong here. They are vectors for disease and parasite transmission, property damage and noise pollution. They have no natural predators. Birds are the most aggressive vertebrates on the planet. Through no fault of their own, these beautiful chickens have become pests.
“Everyone’s heart is in the right place, but even the most passionate animal lover will lose his patience when he slips and falls in peacock feces.”
Cathy Moghari is an animal lover. Her neighbors call her the Peacock Whisperer. At least a dozen peafowl make their home at her home on Crystal Court. They eat sunflower seeds out of her hand and come to her when she clucks her tongue.
“I think of it as a gift to wake up and see these guys in the morning,” said Moghari, calling Blue by name. “It’s kind of a paradise here, and if you can’t bond with nature in the Grove you should live in a high-rise.”
The solution is to round up all the nuisance peafowl and enclose them in the yards of the people in Coconut Grove who feed them. If they love them so much let them have them and see how long it takes for them to get that murderous gleam in their eyes after they scratch the paint off their car or kill their dog.