Feral peacocks

I will admit that the headline of this story made me think it would be little more than a laugh, but it had me fully engaged.

Kirk Sides/Chronicle staff photographer

Kellie Donoghue proceeds with trepidation when she takes her four dogs for a walk. Even though it’s broad daylight, she scans the streets before she makes a turn, vigilant for the omnipresent threat that’s taking over her Memorial-area neighborhood.

She’s checking the roads, tree tops and bushes for peacocks.

For decades, peacocks — more accurately called peafowl — have stalked Donoghue’s Heathwood neighborhood, shrieking from homes and trees and charging at humans and pets.

The peafowl, she said, are prone to attacking humans, animals and cars and can cause serious property damage to homes. They walk into traffic without hesitation, creating unsafe driving conditions for motorists.

“I saw seven of them smashing into a car the other day,” she reported. “They tear up roofs and break windows. Once they even chased a group of kids.”

Compounding the issue, said Heathwood resident Linda Aber, is the fact that all the birds started out as one small, privately owned flock. Aber believes the birds are all inbred, which she said raises ethical questions about whether they should be allowed to continue to reproduce.

The Heathwood flock are notorious among Texas ornithologists and invasive species experts.

Fred Collins is a wildlife biologist and former president of the Texas Audubon Society advisory board who has been studying the birds since they were introduced to Houston in the late 1950s.

The peafowl were brought to the area by Vargo’s restaurant, which closed in 2012. Many of the birds left Vargo’s property, he said, settling in the nearby neighborhoods.

What started out as a small flock of birds grew well into the hundreds by the 2010s, he said, and the flock has continued to expand.

While the birds drifted into most of the neighborhoods surrounding the Buffalo Bayou, Collins stated that the birds causing issues in Heathwood have congregated in such dense numbers because they’re being fed by residents.

It was the description of them as “invasive species” that made me stop chuckling and think about this more seriously. This isn’t the usual way that we encounter invasive species, and they’re not causing ecological havoc, but they’re still a pest that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. We hear from some other experts in the story but there’s no “this is what should be done to try to ameliorate this” statement within. The experts refute the residents’ assertions about the birds being aggressive (more likely, they’re habituated to humans, who have been feeding them), and one can infer that the best course of action mostly involves not feeding these birds any more. Easier said than done since who knows who might be doing that, but it’s at least a mantra that residents who want to Do Something can spread. I wish them well and hope that these birds don’t migrate any farther to the southeast.

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7 Responses to Feral peacocks

  1. Robbie Westmoreland says:

    I feel like the obvious question here is “can you eat them?”

  2. C.L. says:

    With all the chit chat about coyotes in/around the area (NextDoor, etc.), I’m genuinely surprised this flock hasn’t already been.. ameliorated. Seems like they’d be sitting (Muscovy) ducks, so to speak.

    Everyone wants to befriend invasive species or wild animals they think they can domesticate.

  3. Ross says:

    Peafowl can fly, so staying away from coyotes and other predators isn’t hard.

  4. Jason Hochman says:

    I used to see a white one in the Timbergrove area.

  5. mollusk says:

    Some people who feed wild animals can be incredibly dense. I once worked downtown in a building with a large, tree shaded plaza. One woman fed the birds daily, and habituated them to the point that nobody roughly her size, hair style, and hair color could walk out the door without being besieged by a mob of pigeons. It eventually took a written memo to every one of the (probably thousands) of employees in the building for her to stop.

  6. David Fagan says:

    When people talk about controlling feral cats and dogs, you get accused of not liking animals. There’s a group touting how not having a dog house for you dog is punishable by the law. Peafowl are animals, so get out there and love them cat-people and dog- people.

    Full bred dogs are inbred also and people don’t have a problem with that. Dogs and cats are a much bigger problem than peafowl and should be addressed.

  7. Robbie: If the question is “do they taste good”, Google had a mixed bag of answers. Try for yourself and see, I guess.

    If the question is “can you legally hunt them in Texas”, the answer appears to be Yes.

    Whether HPD will look fondly on someone shooting at them in that neighborhood is a question I didn’t research, but my best guess is “probably not”.

Comments are closed.