Peacocks Roam Free Despite Complaints : La Canada Council Sides With Bird Lovers, Decides Against Trapping

Times Staff Writer

The love of peacocks has prevailed in La Canada Flintridge.

The City Council decided Tuesday against trapping and removing some of the exotic birds that roam freely in a neighborhood just north of Angeles Crest Highway near Gould Canyon.

Some residents complained that, although the birds may be beautiful, they are also noisy, dirty and destructive. One man even brought to the council meeting a tape recording of a peacock calling for his mate in the night. It was a high screech that he said makes it impossible for him to sleep.

The council members were not moved by the arguments or the recording. They rejected a city staff recommendation to allow the Los Angeles County agricultural commissioner's office to set traps and relocate some of the birds outside La Canada Flintridge.

"People are asking us to play God," Councilman O. Warren Hillgren said. "It's not in the city's role to say how many are too many and how many are too few."

The flock of peafowl is estimated by residents at 40 to 100 birds. La Canada Flintridge is one of several areas in Southern California where the exotic birds from India roam wild. Other flocks are in Mission Viejo, Anaheim Hills and Palos Verdes Estates.

The debate in La Canada Flintridge lacked the acrimony of the continuing battle in Palos Verdes, where poisoning was suspected after nine birds died in November. Still, residents of La Canada Flintridge streets such as Vista Le Jana Lane, Bigbriar Way and Harter Lane--which has become known as "Peacock Alley"--argued that the number of peafowl has gotten out of hand, making them an intolerable nuisance.

Homeowner Richard DeGrey complained of bird droppings and noise. "They're very messy," he said. "They wake you up in the middle of the night, landing on your roof. They devour your garden.

"I would like to see our street colored by flowers, not by peacocks that won't get out of your way when you're driving down the street."

When DeGrey played a tape recording of a peacock's shrill nocturnal mating call, it provoked love calls from the birds' supporters.

"It's music to my ears," one woman shouted from the audience. "Play it some more."

Others piped up in support of the birds. Marsha McClean-Utley said: "They are beautiful. They are part of the area, the ambiance. It is exciting to watch the males strut as they try to convince the females they are the one. "

The flock reportedly is descended from a few peacocks and peahens that were kept in a menagerie on the E. W. Sargent estate that encompassed the neighborhood at the turn of the century. The estate was eventually sold and broken up, evolving into a subdivision about 19 years ago. But the birds stayed and increased in number.

Speculation on Cause

Some residents speculated that the sudden growth of the flock in recent years was helped two years ago by a fire that drove away coyotes that preyed on the birds, keeping their numbers in check.

Although the staff recommendation to trap the birds was on the council agenda, it was shelved without a formal vote. No council member thought it warranted a motion. The council, however, was in favor of keeping track of the complaints about peacocks.

"I just wonder if we've had these complaints over the years," Councilman John Hastings said. "It seems that all of a sudden we've had a bunch."

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