When a feral peacock squatted in someone’s yard in North Oakland a few months back, the avian vagabond struggled to get off on the right foot with his new community. Although some of his more welcoming human neighbors rejoiced over the sight of his vibrant plumage, and decorated his abode with haiku and artful renditions of his likeness, others took issue with his expressive nature — namely, to quote one hostile neighbor, the peacock’s proclivity for screaming “relentlessly, every day.” According to SF Gate, one person found the guttural honks to be such a nuisance, they lodged a noise complaint against the bird. Some even contemplated homicide, joking on networking-platform Nextdoor about throwing a “peacock BBQ.”
As someone who was recently characterized as a “burgeoning bird fanatic,” in an unprompted email from an environmentalist organization, I am predisposed to be sympathetic toward the peacock — who goes by the names Bruce, Paco, Peter, Pierre, and Abraham — and his human allies. But, even if I were to despise winged creatures, I would like to imagine that I would not demand this peacock face persecution, simply for expressing his feelings. Clearly, this peacock is trying to make a point of some kind.
Now what, exactly, may he be attempting to vocalize? A few possibilities.
According to Dennis Fett, a verified peacock expert interviewed by SF Gate (his credentials include running the Peacock Information Center, as well as owning a hat that reads “Mr. Peacock”), the rowdy peacock is not simply screaming to hear his own beautiful voice. Instead, he’s likely responding to a disturbance of some kind. “The peacock is making noise at night because that means somebody, animal or human, is doing something that’s not in the normal sense of the environment,” Fett explained. “They’re like a watchdog — they have keen hearing.” Perhaps the peacock, like many of us, found the din of nonstop fireworks to be irritating. Or maybe he was trying to deliver some sort of warning to his neighbor Jesse T., who wrote on Nextdoor that he has been “sleeping on the floor on a camping air mattress” ever since the bird’s cries started piercing through his bedroom walls two months ago. Sure seems like the bird might want Jesse to hear what he has to say.
And then, there’s my personal hypothesis that the peacock is simply responding to this precise moment in history, where we’re facing a pandemic that shows no sign of abating, unprecedented economic downturn, and gross failure of political leadership. Imagine responding to this precise moment with anything other than a guttural scream.
Whatever the bird’s message may be, his neighbors would be wise to heed it sooner rather than later. While Fett notes that animal control probably won’t step in to take any action against the peacock (thank goddess), he thinks the community should hire an expert to relocate the fowl to safer terrain — preferably, one without cars and rancorous neighbors. “The bird doesn’t really belong there,” he told SF Gate. “I love the peafowl, but he needs to be back to a place where he’s safe.”
May the peacock one day reside in a place where he is appreciated, perhaps alongside another misunderstood avian neighbor: Gerald, the aggressive turkey who was recently removed from Oakland’s Rose Garden for “viciously attacking” people. I would argue that he, too, probably had a point.