Residents of South Pasadena, California, are getting tired of scratches and dents in their cars, brown patches on their lawns and late-night, repetitive squawking during summers. The culprit? Peacocks.
For years, peafowl have called Los Angeles County home, and residents have disputed how to best handle the roughly ten-pound birds. Some enjoy (and even feed) them, while others wish them gone.
“Peafowl walk along our block from time to time, and I don’t ever see them causing any nuisance,” Feliza Castellanos, a South Pasadena resident of two years, tells the Los Angeles Times’ Andrew J. Campa. “They are beautiful birds; I don’t see why they want to round them up and get rid of them.”
But despite their glamor, some residents say the animals are a menace—especially because of their noise.
“It sounds like babies being tortured and with a close-up microphone. It’s very shocking,” Chapman Woods resident Kathleen Tuttle told ABC7’s Alex Cheney in June 2021. “There’s no way you can sleep through it, and it’s extremely distracting.”
Now, after several City Council meetings, petitions and an open forum, South Pasadena has become the latest California city to remove the peafowl and relocate them to private farms, ranches and open spaces in the state. The process began on Dec. 2, 2022, and the city is now looking for volunteers to place 10-by-10-foot cages in their yards to aid with trapping efforts.
The South Pasadena peafowl population has spiked dramatically in the last year. A 2022 census counted 102 birds—a sharp increase from 36 in 2021. It’s unclear what led to this rise, though a lack of predators and an abundance of pine trees makes the city attractive, and reduced traffic during the pandemic may have incentivized the birds to move from other areas with high populations, per the L.A. Times.
Peafowl are not native to North America, but they’re often found in warm-weather cities, including Miami, Austin and Honolulu, writes Audubon magazine’s Brendan Borrell. In California, the birds may be descendants of those imported from India in the 1870s by rancher Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin. The L.A. birds, called Indian peafowl or Pavo cristatus, are one of just three peafowl species in the world. The males, known as peacocks, are bright blue and weigh 8 to 13 pounds, while the slightly smaller females, called peahens, have a more subdued grey or brown color.
After Baldwin’s death in 1909, a portion of his 8,000-acre ranch—with about 100 peafowl that lived there—was made into the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. Since then, peafowl in the surrounding area have dug up gardens, scratched children, pooped on cars and caused traffic jams.
Some Californians have taken matters into their own hands—between 2012 and 2014, about 50 peacocks in Rolling Hills Estates were illegally killed, reported Veronica Rocha for the L.A. Times in 2014. Some were found poisoned, hit by cars or shot with rubber bullets or arrows.
“The cruelty is horrendous,” resident Linda Retz told the L.A. Times at the time. “I think whoever is doing this is rather disturbed.”
In an effort to control the population, Los Angeles County officially banned feeding roaming peafowl in 2021, with offenders facing a $1,000 fine or up to six months in prison.
Still, some residents say the birds add to the area’s charm.
“I do believe that the peafowls add value to my property, and I believe that they are something that is unique to this area,” Monterey Hills resident Rachel Pinckney tells Andres de Ocampo of the South Pasadena Review. “It’s not like you can live anywhere and have these types of experiences with nature and such beauty. I have a hard time understanding how people take that for granted, especially in these times.”