Peacocks Terrorize La Canada Flintridge

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE, Calif. -- The iridescent blue feathers are flying in this well-to-do suburb where many residents have grown tired of peacocks they say squawk loudly, attack cars and use patios and yards as restrooms.

Defenders of the peacocks (and their less-showy female counterparts, the peahens) respond that the handsome birds give the town's rolling hills and twisting canyons a distinctive look.

What's more, they argue, the birds were here decades before the 20,000 people in the town, incorporated in 1976 at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains above Los Angeles.

That doesn't mollify residents like Lisa Phelan, who says a mother hen and her flock took up residence in her yard last year and used her patio table as a toilet.

"They are loud. They disrupt our sleep. They leave their fecal matter all over our yard," said Phelan, 42.

Responding to such complaints, the city council last month agreed to reduce the flock from about 40 birds to 14, the minimum deemed necessary for the population to sustain itself. The others will be trapped and moved elsewhere.

Not everyone wants to see any of the birds go. Yana Ungermann Marshall, 58, remembers them from her childhood, when the town was a rural community of sprawling estates.

"They're beautiful. They're gorgeous. They're iridescent," said Marshall. "They've always lived here and they've adapted to this place."

Peafowl are not native to Southern California but are able to thrive here because there are plenty of nonnative plants to eat, said Mike Maxcy, the Los Angeles Zoo's principal animal keeper.

The origins of the town's birds is a mystery, although some believe they came from the menagerie of oldtime film star Victor McLaglen, who had a home in the area. Others believe they can be traced to a flock that a prominent lawyer brought in to fight rattlesnakes on his ranch, which has since been subdivided.

La Canada Flintridge isn't the only LA-area town with a peacock flock, but they aren't as big an issue elsewhere.

There are about 300 of them in Arcadia, where they have mostly been embraced, in part because the Los Angeles County Arboretum there is their main stomping ground. The city declared them the official bird and put an art nouveau peacock on its Web site and street signs. To the south, the wealthy coastal suburb of Palos Verdes Estates has two flocks, totaling almost 80 birds.
Phelan said the anti-peafowl activism began after a series of messy episodes, including mating-season mishaps in which males attacked parked cars after seeing their reflections on them.

The City Council approved the Peacock Management Plan after a heated five-hour hearing. If the smaller flock is still causing trouble a year from now, the city will provide residents with traps to catch birds on their property.

Phelan's keeping an open mind, but doesn't expect to find the smaller flock any more endearing.

"Fourteen birds still poop in your yard," she said. "They still scream in the middle of the night. They still destroy your landscaping and they still cause a hazard in the streets. So I'm pretty sure in a year I'm going to feel the same way I feel right now."

Contact Us