Scientist helps solve peacock problems

May 06, 2003

Peafowl, historically valued for their iridescent blue-green beauty, have become intolerable nuisances in some parts of California. Francine Bradley, a University of California poultry scientist, gets the call when people stop being proud of their peacocks.

Granted, peacocks and peahens are gorgeous. They also are big, hungry, fierce, destructive and scream all night long during mating season -- which in warm areas can last from late January well into fall.

Bradley is a UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist. She's based at UC Davis but spends most of her time on the road helping California ranchers, farmers, hobbyists, city managers, park rangers and concerned citizens with bird problems.

Lately, peafowl calls are on the rise, from Vacaville to Berkeley and Arcadia to Point Reyes. Currently, Bradley is an expert witness in a civil lawsuit over the future of hundreds of free-ranging peafowl on the tony Palos Verdes Peninsula.

"Peafowl are native to India, not California. They are an invasive animal species," Bradley says. "They hurt native birds by eating their food and decimating the plants where the natives would live. They ruin plants put on hillsides to prevent erosion.

"In neighborhoods, they scratch the paint on cars, damage shingles and tiles on roofs and cover lawns with fecal matter. When a man in Palos Verdes Estates stepped between an attacking peacock and a child on a tricycle, the bird ripped open the man's pants with its spurs. Another bird's screaming terrified a man with Alzheimer's disease so badly that he had to move from his own home."

Usually, Bradley advises municipal and park managers to trap the birds and give them to breeders who can keep them in a confined environment. Leaving peafowl in place is rarely an option, she says, since one pair can produce 20 offspring a year.

University of California - Davis

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