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Op-Ed: It took a peacock’s arrival to pierce the pandemic gloom of a Sherman Oaks neighborhood

Peacocks occasionally turn up in Los Angeles County neighborhoods, delighting — or sometimes irritating — residents.
Peacocks occasionally turn up in Los Angeles County neighborhoods, delighting — or sometimes irritating — residents.
(Yves Logghe / Associated Press)

The Facebook group dubbed Part of Sherman Oaks — POSO to its members — is normally a repository for neighborhood news you can use. People recommend electricians, or Mexican restaurants, or offer free fruit from their trees.

Then 2020 happened.

With COVID-19 came higher anxiety levels. and the group’s feed started reflecting the strife. There were worries about packages being stolen off front porches and complaints about the infernal, incessant detonation of fireworks. Neighbors began using our friendly POSO page to vent, commiserate and even argue.

It took the cosmic return of Percival to pierce the gloom.

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Percival — Percy to his POSO pals — is a peacock. He first turned up on neighborhood streets for an extended stay a few years ago, flitting from roof to roof, strutting across lawns, and delighting children and grownups alike. But after spending a few months in the neighborhood, he vamoosed, without so much as a goodbye.

In our “Dispatches From the Pandemic” series, we bring you personal stories from people whose lives have been altered by COVID-19.

The bird was all but forgotten until this year. Then, not long after Memorial Day, just as developments on the coronavirus turned discouraging again, a new Percy sighting was reported, and then another.

Residents, many of them largely homebound because of the pandemic, came to the joyous realization that he had readopted the neighborhood as his hangout. POSO postings grew joyful again.

Neighbors delighted in his iridescent blue neck and gaudy trailing tail feathers. Their hearts soared when he spread his tail plume in a dazzling array of colors and patterns.

They even tolerated his cries, which says something about their joy in his return. If you have never heard the call of a peacock, it’s nothing to celebrate. Piercing and discordant, it begins in the gut, as one POSO resident described it, like a “brassy tuba” and builds into a loud screech.

But Percy’s unfortunate voice couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm for him. Nowadays, the Facebook site is dominated by reports of his latest location, often with photographs. A member created a map app to keep track of Percy sightings.

Jon Burk, who co-administers POSO’s Facebook page, says Percy has brightened the mood and “brought the neighborhood together.” Once, when the bird turned up on Burk’s lawn, he said, neighbors came by “who had been here a long time that I’d never talked to before.”

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Derek Young, the POSO resident credited with assigning a name to the guest of honor, says that “having a neighborhood mascot has given us all something positive to look forward to during this time of uncertainty.”

Not all neighborhoods roll out the welcome mat when a peacock arrives, said Mike Maxcy, curator of birds at the L.A. Zoo. He told me that sometimes peafowl show up in flocks of as many as eight. They can be noisy and frighten pets. “And they are pretty abusive with flowers,” he said.

So, I suppose POSO is lucky that Percy is all alone.

I do sometimes wonder, why us? Why now?

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Is it plausible that Percy was sent as a salve for the pummeling that 2020 has delivered?

But then I give in to the mystery. Some blessings are not to be questioned and investigated — just appreciated and enjoyed.

Mike Tierney is a journalist and resident of Sherman Oaks who, until Percy, had never seen a peacock outside of a zoo.


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