S. California Neighbors Cry Fowl Over Peacocks



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They are beloved stars of wealthy suburbia. They have their own Facebook page and are the main characters in a new children's book. But the strutting, squawking peafowl of Palos Verdes Peninsula in Southern California are turning neighbor against neighbor.

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Here in Southern California, peacocks with their dazzling feathers and their mates, known as peahens, have enjoyed a comfortable existence for decades in the upscale community of the Palos Verdes. The story has it, that back in the 1920s, someone gave a landowner a few of these birds because he thought the area was too quiet. Well, not anymore. Gloria Hillard has more.

GLORIA HILLARD: It's a place that seems, in many ways, more than an hour away from Los Angeles. The neighborhoods are arched with tall trees and bridle paths and ranch homes with white picket fences, where shimmering blue and green peacocks like to perch.��

(Soundbite of peacock)

Ms. EMILY POWER: Just to be able to get up close to something like this, it's almost like�you're on a safari everyday.

HILLARD: Emily Power is wearing a green headband with a peacock feather. She points out a peacock on a roof and then a slow moving mother peahen with a chick in tow crosses our path.

(Soundbite of peacock)

Ms. POWER: These beautiful, majestic birds crossing the street at every turn, and we feel so lucky to live here.

Hillard:� The Dapplegray neighborhood in the city of Rolling Hills Estates is considered a peafowl protection zone. It's the only place on the peninsula where the birds can not be trapped or removed.�

(Soundbite of peacock)

But that's not to say that everyone here feels the same way about the birds. Recently, the nearby residents on Strawberry Lane voted to secede from the peacock protection zone. Cheryl Steckel is a homeowner.�

Ms. CHERYL STECKEL: They're very messy. Their droppings are huge, especially for a bird.�

HILLARD:� One street over, resident Valerie Goodman says the peacock calls interrupt her business calls.�

Ms. VALERIE GOODMAN: When one peacock gets set off the entire neighborhood gets set off. And what sets them off - strange cars in the neighborhood, bicyclists, emergency vehicles, gardeners.

HILLARD:�Just walking the neighborhood, it's hard to tell which houses might be more peacock friendly than others, maybe the ones with the peacock feather bouquets on their porch.

Ms. LAURIE BECK: Yes, we've grown up with peacocks.

HILLARD:�Jim and Laurie Beck says it's the newcomers to the peninsula causing the problems.��

Ms. BECK: People knowingly move to this area and there's�peacocks, and then they want to change it. It's like moving to - by an airport, you know, there's airplanes.�And then you say I want the airport gone.

HILLARD:� People around here say the so-called peacock wars heat up every few years. Even in the Dapplegray neighborhood, there have been reports of intentional peafowl hit and runs or worse. But soon it will be fall. That's when the peacocks lose their tail feathers.

Ms. MARY JO HAZARD (Author, "The Peacocks of Palos Verdes"): And then usually they go into hiding. You don't see them until January.

HILLARD:� That's author Mary Jo Hazard.�She's�written a children's book called "The Peacocks of Palos Verdes." I think the peacocks like the book or certainly her reading of it anyway.

Ms. HAZARD: (Reading) Marching through gardens and strutting down streets, crying aaraw, aaraw.

(Soundbite of peacocks)

HILLARD: Meanwhile, the sun is setting and the dawdling peafowl are coming home to roost. Again, Mary Jo Hazard.

Ms. HAZARD: (Reading) When the sun goes down and its time for bed, they return to their trees, those sleepy heads. And when they are settled, they give one more shout. Good night. Sleep tight.

(Soundbite of peacocks)

HILLARD: It's a little bit like the Waltons.

Ms. HAZARD: Yes, exactly like the Waltons.

HILLARD:� For NPR News, I'm Gloria Hillard.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.