A peacock was shot out of a tree and plunged to its death on a quiet lane in South Coconut Grove.
Peacockicide: It has come to this in Miami, ground zero for the battle between residents who love the bejeweled birds and treat them as exotic pets and those who loathe the invasive species and shun them as a squawking, defecating nuisance.
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Nobody knows who committed the fowl deed. The only witnesses were his fellow birds roosting in the same tree who fluttered down to watch him take his last breaths.
“Hunting in Coconut Grove? Only savages could do this to a beautiful peacock,” said Adriana Mosquena Vick.
She was walking near her home along Lybyer Avenue on Sunday morning when she heard a dozen gunshots. She turned and saw something falling through the air.
“It sounded like a branch or a palm frond or a coconut coming down, but it was too big and I thought, ‘That is not a coconut,’” she said. She clambered over a fence into the backyard of an empty house and found the limp peacock.
“The poor bird — it took him five minutes to die,” she said. “The other birds were surrounding him and they seemed sad and confused.”
Vick called Miami police. Six officers responded, squad car lights flashing. So much for a peaceful Sunday on lush little Lybyer Avenue. Their investigation was brief. An incident report is pending.
“They didn’t even pick up the peacock to see what kind of bullet hit him. Was it a big bullet, a small bullet?” she said. “This is not just about the peacocks. This is also about the people who live in the neighborhood. Whoever shot that gun has no respect for the residents or for nature.”
Although peafowl have been proliferating rapidly in the area the last few years, neighbor Katrina Morris said there has to be a better solution for controlling the population of the birds, which are protected by the county code. Harming them is against the law.
“There are a ton now — a ton. I can understand why someone might be annoyed, but I don’t see how shooting one is going to accomplish anything,” Morris said. “Taking matters into your own hands with a gun is ridiculous. Bullets go up, but they also come down.”
Peacocks make piercingly loud screeches, howls and honks. They produce large amounts of poop. They dig up yards, eat plants, destroy landscaping. When they see their reflection on the side panels of a car, they mistake it for a rival and peck at the shiny paint. They damage roofs while rooting around for insects.
“They are kind of like Muscovy ducks,” said neighbor Steve Cavendish, who suggested that distributing peacock recipes might be a method for culling them. “They’ve gotten to be too much, particularly at 2 in the morning. Or you’re on your patio and all of a sudden there’s eight looking at you. I counted 40 in the yard across the street.”
Linda Palewicz, who has lived under the oaks on Lybyer for 30 years, adores the peacocks and occasionally feeds them cat food or cracked corn. She has named the chicks after famous chefs, Jack and Jill, and Peter, Paul and Mary.
“I’m retired; it’s something to do,” Palewicz said, laughing. “They’ll get on top of our truck, but people with Ferraris and BMWs are concerned about the scratching. Most Groveites like them and appreciate them, but some guy barreling through here the other day barely stopped for a family of four crossing the road, and he bumped the last one before driving off.”
South Miami is on the verge of passing a new law that will slap a $500 fine on anyone caught feeding peacocks or other feral animals.
“They’re not going to disappear if we eliminate the supplemental feeding, but we can bring the numbers down,” said Mayor Philip Stoddard, a zoologist who had three in his neighborhood and now has 40. “Also, foxes like to eat the young ones. So be nice to the foxes.”
Residents have suggested feeding a contraceptive called Ovo Control P to peafowl. It was originally developed to control pigeon populations.
City of Miami and Miami-Dade County commissioners are fielding more and more complaints about peafowl from exasperated residents. A law prohibits capturing the birds unless they are released into a protected area. The city asked nine animal sanctuaries around the state if they would accept peafowl; all said no.
“The commissioners have not resolved anything because they dread calling in the peacock lovers and the peacock haters for a food fight at county hall,” Stoddard said.
Vick believes peacocks come with life in Coconut Grove. She resents new residents who have cut down trees and poisoned possums. She thinks the person who shot the peacock failed to adapt to a neighborhood that wants to remain wild.
“The peacocks do make a lot of noise at night,” she said. “This killer probably had insomnia.”