Peacockalypse Now!

The Peacock Invasion That Plagued Coconut Grove is Now a Gables Dilemma

With its regal bearing and psychedelic tail feathers, the peafowl – commonly known as the peacock – is recognized as one of nature’s most beautiful birds. But in the City Beautiful, the free-ranging exotics have worn out their welcome.

“Something needs to be done,” said Mayor Vince Lago during the city commission meeting in July. “These guys have big talons. They have the ability to hurt somebody.” And he added, “God forbid you want to sleep in till 7 o’clock, and you have a peacock screaming on your roof.”

In June, the commission had done something about what many see as the growing menace of peacocks and peahens (their better half ), passing a resolution approving a peafowl mitigation policy. It would allow residents to hire licensed trappers to remove the birds from their property. The resolution also authorized the city to budget $5,000 a year to move peafowls from public lands.

The city resolution still requires approval by the county, which prohibits removal of the birds. Even if okayed by the Miami-Dade County commission for approval in September, it’s no real solution to the peacock problem, since state and county laws protect the birds from being euthanized, and there are few, if any, wildlife sanctuaries that will take them. Veteran wildlife trapper Todd Hardwick, owner of Pesky Critters, turns down jobs involving peafowl. “I don’t need the headaches,” he says.

The Peacock Invasion

The peafowl conundrum got a thorough airing in the July commission meeting when Lago screened a cell phone video of “about two dozen peacocks” crossing the street in front of his house near the University of Miami. “They are not afraid of anybody,” he said. And, the mayor added, the birds are a nuisance, pooping on his driveway, scratching the roofs of cars, and disturbing the peace with raucous cries. “I’m putting this out there because something needs to be done,” said Lago.

For years the call to curtail peafowl proliferation has echoed through Miami-Dade County like a gravelly squawk. The turkey-sized birds – native to India and Sri Lanka – roam countywide and are well-established in Coconut Grove. In February County Commissioner Raquel Regalado, who represents parts of Coral Gables, tried to repeal the county’s 2001 peafowl protection ordinance, but was rebuffed when colleagues voiced fears the birds would be killed. As a compromise, the commission allowed cities to opt out of the law if they presented an appropriate plan for removal. Coral Gables is the first city to request the opt-out. “It’s a tough one,” says Regalado. “Peacocks are different than any other invasive species – they are beautiful.” And, she added, “they procreate at an amazing rate.” Regalado suggests Miami-Dade’s peacocks be tagged and tracked so researchers can count them, then look for ways to curb them.

For now, the problem remains: what to do with the peacocks? Without the ability to dispatch them humanely, not even experts have a solution. Kathy Labrada, assistant director of the county’s Animal Services Department, lives in Kendale Lakes, where peafowl roosting on her roof fell through the pool screen and caused $15,000 in damage. “I shoo them off my property. That’s all we can do,” says Labrada.

In the meantime, the birds continue to strut their stuff, proud as…well, peacocks. Commissioner Kirk Menendez said he worries that angry peafowl could hurt someone. “As you can see, they are bigger than a lot of kids,” he said. “They can be aggressive. At what point can you defend yourself?” Commissioner Rhonda Anderson suggested another animal could be the solution. “This is why you need a dog, not a cat,” she said. “A dog will take care of that.”