Peacocks are arguably the most vibrant, beautiful, and well known species of bird in the world.
The term peacock is commonly used to describe both male and females, however the species is known more broadly as peafowl with the dudes being known as peacocks and the ladies being known as peahens. Baby peafowl are known as peachicks.
There are three sub-species of peafowl on the planet. Blue peafowl, which inhabit the Indian subcontinent, Green peafowl which are found throughout southeast Asia, and the Congo peafowl which is native to only the Congo basin of Africa.
Peacocks are most well known for their extravagant feather colorations and patterns and their ear piercing vocalizations. Those loud calls is what ultimately lead to the demise of a suburban wild peacock in California recently.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the presence of free range peafowl around Southern California is a polarizing issue. That polarization simmered into a boil earlier this week, as police are now investigating what appears to be the execution of a peacock at the hands of a Craigslist advertisement that put a bounty on the noisy big bird.
Blue peafowl were introduced to the San Gabriel Valley of California in the late 1800s by a businessman known as Lucky Baldwin, who planted fruit trees from around the world and raised a variety of livestock on a sprawling piece of acreage known as Rancho Santa Anita.
Baldwin reportedly bought several blue peafowl during a trip to India and he brought the birds back to California and let them free on his ranch. They are now quite common in the area, to the delight and the dismay of local residents.
Some folks love the birds and view them as a cultural treasure worth being fed and permitted to roam freely across streets, lawns, trees, and rooftops in the suburban valley. Other people view the birds as an uninvited nuisance that block traffic, destroy gardens, poop everywhere, and annoy the shit out of people with their shrill sounding squawks.
In some instances, enough complaints have been lodged about specific birds that licensed trappers have had to relocate them. Mike Maxcy, a retired zookeeper who contracts with city and county governments to remove peafowl from areas of conflict has seen the full spectrum of varying opinions on the birds.
“I can’t believe it…. it seems like you either love them or you hate them.
I’ve been doing this as a side job for over 20 years, and I’ve never seen such a polarizing topic or discussion as the peafowl.”
Most of the conflicts people in California have with peafowl is a result of the birds getting habituated to humans through feeding. Once the birds are dependent on being fed, they can become aggressive when seeking out yard scraps, outdoor pet food, and bird feeders. Los Angeles County actually drafted statutes to outlaw people from feeding peacocks.
While the birds were first introduced on a private ranch, when state and county acquired 111 acres of that ranch to open an arboretum, they inherited the peafowl on the property too.
For decades the peafowl population has expanded, and the calls from angry neighbors demanding the birds be removed from their property has increased in recent years.
Earlier this summer, one California resident decided to take matters into their own hands though, and now we have one of the wildest stories of the year unfolding.
Peacocks are considered a naturalized species in the state these days, and they are protected by law.
Concerns about breaking any laws didn’t stop an unknown perpetrator from offering up a paid bounty to anyone willing to get rid of one particular peacock that was allegedly causing a noisy ruckus every morning at sunrise.
The bird was well known to Humboldt County residents for the last 6 years, even being nicknamed “Mr. P” or “Azul.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Mr. P the peacock was found shot to death after a craigslist ad was posted calling for the death of the bird.
Melissa Glass knew the peacock well, as the bird frequently hung around the chickens she keeps in her backyard.
Glass said that on June 30th, a neighbor knocked on her door visibly upset to report that the peacock had shown up dead. When her husband went to retrieve the bird, he reported seeing what appeared to be a gun shot wound.
“He literally showed up out of the blue one day. He’s just been part of our life ever since.
He was appreciated by many in the community. People would bring their kids to see him and take photos.
He drops his feathers every fall. So I have an amazing stock of feathers I’d give to the kids.
Even the UPS guys would stop and take pictures. He was regularly getting cookies and French bread from neighbors. He was working the scene. He knew he was charming.
It’s really sad because he probably suffered for at least two or three hours before he died, possibly more.”
Rumors about the birds death began to sweep through the area, and conversations amongst neighbors and some savvy google searching revealed that there was a post made the website Craigslist seeking a peacock assassin in the weeks leading up to the incident.
Screenshots from the post corroborate the story that there was a paid hit put on the specific peacock that was shot. The craigslist post included a written narrative calling for someone to come kill the peacock along with a map that indicated where the peacock frequently hung out.
“The job is simple… Get rid of a wild peacock that is disrupting our lives. Locating the bird is easy as it roosts in the trees near my house every evening around 8:00 – 8:30 pm. There are no fences so access is easy, but please note that I do not own any of this property.
This bird came here about 4 months ago, no one knows from where, and no one here owns it. If you’ve ever heard a peacock’s call, you know it’s as loud as a car horn. This bird wakes me up every morning around 5:00 – 5:30 am and continues calling for about 3 hours.
I put in ear plugs and put a pillow over my head… sometimes this works, sometimes not. This has been going on for almost 4 months… Crazy!
Please contact me so we can form a strategy to eliminate this bird, and also to agree on how much you will be compensated.”
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, a potential suspect has been identified by deputies and a search warrant was served at a nearby residence in relation to the investigation. However, no arrests have been made at this time but crimes currently being investigated are animal cruelty and conspiracy to commit a crime.
The suspect is a local resident who has gotten in arguments with neighbors about the peacock in the past. He had also tried to rally support for having the peacock relocated, but other people from the area pushed back against the idea.
Melissa Glass isn’t very confident that there will be any repercussions from the incident though.
“I talked to a deputy last night. It was discouraging because while he said we may make a case, he didn’t think it would be a strong one. He was pretty transparent that it would be a lower priority given the backlog of cases.
It’s a really sticky situation. Because when we talked to Fish and Gam the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, they asked, ‘Was it your pet? Do you have a cage for it?’
It is appalling to me that there are no consequences for someone taking a hit out on our pet. And the person who lives under that map marker knew very well that it was loved by many.”
With so many wild peacocks still on the landscape, conflicts like this with the birds aren’t going away anytime soon.
Even efforts to humanely trap and relocate the birds without euthanizing them draws criticism and pushback in a state like California.
This isn’t even the first time that police have had to investigate peacock shootings in the state.