North Oakland Neighbors Divided Over ‘Peter’ the Feral Peacock
North Oakland neighbors are sparring again. No, not over fireworks, slow streets or defunding the OPD, but over a “feral” peacock that some have dubbed “Peter,” “Abraham,” or “Junebug” (or Bruce, Philip or even Paco).
The large male bird has made a large tree on a private property on Occidental Street b/t 59th and Arlington in Oakland’s Santa Fe Neighborhood his “home.”
The main complaint about the bird is his frequent, off-hours caterwauling that is described as an exotic, piercing, high-pitched sound that can be heard from blocks away.
Supporters of the bird have rallied around preventing Peter from being rehomed at the request of some neighbors that are losing sleep from his nightly calls.
Imported to California in the late 1800s
A peacock is the male of the peafowl species (female peafowl are referred to as peahens). Peafowl originate from the Indian subcontinent as well as Southeast Asia and the Congo basin in Africa. Peter appears to be an Indian peacock or ‘Pavo Cristatus’ because of his iridescent blue and green plumage.
Peafowl are omnivores and eat mostly plants, flowers, seeds, insects and small reptiles. Peter has been offered feed, but is said to prefer grass, slugs and insects. “They are food-motivated, social birds,” noted noted Piedmont/Emeryville Animal Control Officer Monica Hueston. Peahens are considered domestic animals, not a game species, so they cannot be hunted.
It’s not clear if Peter was abandoned, escaped from captivity or, more likely, one of the growing number of feral peafowls living throughout the Bay Area. According to this LA Times piece, peafowls were imported to California in the late 1800s and considered a “status symbol” at the time.
Peter appears to be the same peacock that previously dwelled at a nearby location closer to 62nd street and has been in the neighborhood for an estimated four years. The resident reportedly fed Peter and also kept chickens which may have provided companionship to him. When the resident moved, Peter apparently migrated to his current location on Occidental.
“A complaint has been lodged about The Peacock”
The City of Oakland was made aware of the issue through an OAK 311 report noting Peter’s presence was violating the city’s noise ordinance. “We sent an Animal Control Officer to the block to investigate,” City of Oakland Public Information Officer Autumn King. “After speaking with people on the block it was determined that there is a peacock that frequents the backyard of one particular home, however the occupants are not the owners. We believe this is a feral peacock. The officer spoke with many Occidental Street residents who are in favor of the bird remaining in the neighborhood as he/she desires.”
Peter has developed a bit of a cult following in the neighborhood and supporters have quickly organized to lobby the city to leave the bird be. The debate over whether to rehome Peter has gotten heated at times with one Nextdoor thread garnering 190 comments (and counting) with a majority of neighbors defending his presence. Many expressed that the sound of nature was a relief from the artificial sounds of BART trains, screeching vehicles and relentless construction noise. Many considered the removal of Peter low priority for the city during such a contentious time.
“[He] brings the children on the street such joy, and is much quieter than the fireworks, cars backfiring, and construction,”
“[He] brings the children on the street such joy, and is much quieter than the fireworks, cars backfiring, and construction,” noted one commenter in a Santa Fe Neighborhood facebook group. “He sits on our roof sometimes and has never bothered us a bit. Let the city focus on more important issues.”
One commenter noted that Peter may be ramping up its activity in response to the recent barrage of firework activity in tandem with the fact that it overlaps his mating season which starts in spring and extends into summer. Some neighbors recommended the purchase of a white noise machine to help those having difficulty sleeping.
“I am surprised at the number of advocates in behalf of the peacock, while their neighbors’ health and well being are being put in jeopardy. One person’s pleasure would best not require another’s pain,” noted a Nextdoor.com neighbor who argued to have the bird rehomed.
Other detractors pointed to the possibility of the bird being lonely or in distress as a reason for it being so vocal and justification for it being rehomed in an area with other peafowl. They argued that it was selfish of neighbors wanting to keep him in an unsuitable urban area for their own amusement.
They also pointed out that those that wanted the bird around didn’t live close enough for the noise to be a nuisance to them and were being inconsiderate to those with sleep disorders and sensitivity issues that were being exacerbated by the bird’s cries.
Should the city eventually intervene, it would likely be handled by the Alameda Country Fish and Game Commission or one of the city’s wildlife partners. Hueston expressed caution should the bird be captured and moved. “They are also very delicate so capturing them should be handled by a professional.”
Relocation recommendations included Ardenwood Farms in Fremont that already accommodates several “leks” of peafowl. There are also more rural areas in California that accommodate peafowl including Fairfield and Ukiah.
Feature Image: Kai Chang via Twitter.