Peacocks are for the birds, residents say

It’s Thanksgiving, but turkeys aren’t the only birds that are on the minds of La Cañada Flintridge residents who flocked to City Hall Monday night when the City Council took its annual look at the city’s peafowl management plan.

Of the dozen residents who made their voices heard on the issue during the meeting, seven said that the current plan isn’t working, and that the flock, which is largely centered around Haskell Street and Vista Lejana Lane, needs to be removed.

The city’s current management plan dictates that the flock size be maintained at three peacocks and six peahens, with the excess birds being trapped and relocated by Mike Maxcy of the L.A. Zoo, at the city’s expense.

El Vago Street resident Lisa Phelan said that after four years of speaking to the council about the birds, she has finally come to the conclusion that the management plan isn’t going to solve the problem.

“I believe that we all hoped that a smaller flock would help with some of our concerns,” said Phelan. “Despite a step-wise reduction of the [planned] flock size from 18 to nine over the years, the actual number remains at 25.”

Phelan said that the birds leave large amounts of droppings in the street and around homes, damage gardens and yards, and present dangerous obstacles for drivers, in addition to being an annoyance due to their loud squawking.

Fellow El Vago resident Todd Meeker said that he removes hundreds of pounds of droppings every month.

“We were here first, not the birds. And I hope we have some sort of rights,” said Meeker.

In contrast, Brianna Horwitz summarized the position of the peafowl supporters when she said these detriments were overstated and that residents need to share the area with the wildlife.

“I grew up in La Cañada and these birds are a part of my childhood, my memories,” said Horwitz. “They’re harmless, and they’re quiet, they really don’t do anything wrong, and they’re beautiful.”

As for the droppings, resident Ron Horwitz said there was a simple solution.

“They do poop on our deck. And what we use is [a plastic bag] to get rid of them, because we like the nature, and we are willing to make the sacrifices,” he said.

Councilmember Donald Voss said that while the current flock size remains larger than intended, the overall numbers have decreased since the management program was implemented a few years ago.

He asked residents not to feed the birds because it encourages the flock to grow out of proportion and disrupts the city’s efforts to trap and relocate excess birds.

Councilmember Laura Olhasso said that she sympathizes with residents who want the birds removed and is open to altering the plan, but the rest of the council wants to give the plan more time.

“We’ll stick with the current plan for at least for another year to see if we can at least get a better handle on it compared to last year, and then have the same kind of discussion again next year,” said Olhasso.

No matter what decision the council makes, Olhasso said, some residents would be unhappy.

“I don’t think the city is invested one way or the other in peacocks. We’re trying to find the happy medium on an issue [where] there isn’t really a happy medium,” she said.

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