Police Lure Escaped Peacock Into Custody With Mating Call Played On Cell Phone

Zoo officials say it is peacock mating season, and the male bird may have escaped to search for a female

Escaped peacock
A quick-thinking Boston police officer used an electronic mating call to lure an escaped peacock into a fenced-in yard. Boston Police Department

The report came in around 6 a.m. near the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. Officers were told by a concerned citizen that a wild animal had escaped from its enclosure.

Police arriving on the scene “were met by an extremely large, slightly intimidating and quite beautiful, male peacock,” according to a statement from the Boston Police Department.

The escapee was roving the streets of the Roxbury neighborhood, with its train of iridescent blue and green feathers trailing behind. Those tail feathers, called coverts, can be more than 60 percent of the males’ total body length and are fanned out for courtship displays, per National Geographic.

Boston police officer Patrick Sullivan was one of those who responded to a call for backup, reports Juli McDonald of CBS News Boston.

“I thought to myself I need to go see this. Myself and about a half dozen officers spent a very prolonged period just chasing this thing through the streets,” Sullivan tells CBS.

Peacock in street
This peacock escaped the Franklin Park Zoo on May 11, 2020. Boston Police Department

The marauding peacock was six-year-old Snowbank, an Indian blue peacock or peafowl that has lived at the Franklin Park Zoo since 2013, reports Matt Berg of the Boston Globe.

Usually, Snowbank beds down in a large tree inside his enclosure, which zoo officials tell the Globe may have provided a way out.

“This morning, instead of flying down onto zoo grounds, he flew outside of the gate, where he began his adventure,” zoo officials tell the Globe. “It is currently mating season, and it’s possible he ventured out looking for love, in search of a peahen."

With seven officers in hot pursuit of this potentially lovesick fugitive, Sullivan knew he had to do something.

Whether or not he knew it was peacock mating season, his finely honed instincts took him straight to an online search for peacock mating calls on his phone.

If you’re not a female peacock, the male’s siren song is something of an acquired taste. The call sits somewhere between a vuvuzela and a turbo-charged party favor. (Peahens sound like Kazoo honks and blasts.)

“He makes a screeching sound — kind of like a ‘whee’ sound,” Dennis Fett, co-founder of the Peacock Information Center in Minden, Iowa, tells Neil Vigdor of the New York Times. During courtship, males will also shake their signature fanned tails such that the shimmering eye of each feather appears to remain still while the rest of the tail shimmies, reported James Gorman of the New York Times in 2016.

Once Sullivan landed on a suitable recording, he let it rip.

Police luring peacock
Boston police used a mating call played through a cell phone to capture a peacock that had escaped from a nearby zoo. Boston Police Department

“Once he heard the mating call he just started following me. I was just walking through the streets holding my phone over my head and the peacock was following me where I go,” Sullivan tells CBS.

Potential noise complaints notwithstanding, Sullivan leveraged his newfound status as the Pied Piper of peacocks to lure Snowbank inside a fenced-in yard where the bird remained until Boston Animal Control arrived.

The peacock has since been returned to the zoo, where zoo officials tell the Associated Press Snowbank is doing well.

For his part, Sullivan tells CBS he feels a twinge of remorse for his chosen tactics.

“I feel guilty for deceiving him. I know the dating scene right now in Boston is a challenge with everything going on. This peacock, like a lot of Bostonians, is going through a tough time. He just wants to get out on the streets but we are trying to encourage people to avoid doing that.”

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