They turn heads when they display their gorgeous blue and green plumage. But peacocks also make screeching cries and leave piles of droppings.
Just as wild turkeys have populated Contra Costa in recent years, so too have peacocks, though in much smaller numbers, according to Susan Heckly, wildlife rehabilitation director at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek. Most of the peafowl, a term for both male peacocks and the plainer female peahens, were previously kept as pets and either escaped or were abandoned by their owners, she said.
Members of the pheasant family, the birds trace their origins to India.
While the presence of peacocks is welcomed by some, the birds also have their detractors.
"It's pretty cool, the different colors, the greens and blues. It adds a little character to the neighborhood. It's a touch of the tropics," said Alan Anderson, a Brentwood resident who says the birds have been hanging out for years in his neighborhood near Brentwood Boulevard and Grant Street. "Of course, they really leave big droppings of character."
Jeff Wirkus, who lives in the same neighborhood, can attest to that.
"They just sit right out the front door and poop all over. They are a nuisance," said Wirkus, adding that some peacocks just dug up some flower bulbs planted by his wife last week.
"I'm an animal lover," said Wirkus, who believes that the eight or so birds that live in the area would be better off in a more natural environment. "The big thing that people have to remember is the damage they are doing. They are not normal in our environment."
Three years ago, Wirkus managed to relocate two of the birds to a large open field in Bethel Island after they wandered into large recycling bins he had set out for that purpose. "Things were getting out of hand," he said.
"There have been peacocks in various areas for a long time in the East Bay, particularly in Contra Costa County," Heckly said. "They screech and from what I've been told and heard it's loud and blood curdling and not something you would want in your backyard. That's usually when we get a call -- when peacocks are making so much noise."
Danville and outlying areas of Martinez have also attracted peacocks. In the 1980s, the birds divided the retirement community of Rossmoor, where half of the residents liked having them around and the other half wanted them to leave. Eventually, a rancher rounded the birds up and took them to a lake in the Central Valley. One way to keep them out of a backyard, said Heckly, is to have a motion-detected water sprinkler.
"Peacocks particularly don't like to get wet and it doesn't hurt them," she said.
Because they are not considered a wild species, the Lindsay Museum will not come out and retrieve them.
"Peacocks are considered domestic fowl, like a chicken," said Mark Lucero, a spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. That means there are no state protection laws for peacocks such as those that apply to wild and game species, he said.
No doubt, a peacock is one of the world's most stunning birds. But if you think all a peacock does in life is preen and look pretty, think again.
"Peacocks are very good for snake control. They eat snakes. So if you are having a problem with rattlesnakes, they are a good thing to have. Although they are not good for neighbors: they can get on the roof and make a mess," Lucero said.
The birds have been seen in Oakley on Oakley Road near Live Oak Avenue.
"I've had to stop in the roadway for one in the middle of the street. He was all by himself, just standing there pretty as can be," said Jon LaBarge, an Oakley resident, who says the birds are neither messy nor a bother. "It's actually humorous when you seen them on a neighbor's rooftop."
In Bay Point, peacocks have been spotted in places as mundane as the parking lot of the Walgreens on Willow Pass Road as well as in an enclave of stately homes on Sycamore Court that was built more than 80 years ago for Shell Oil executives.
One bird has made regular visits to homes in the Sea Breeze neighborhood.
"He's very colorful," said Greg Enholm, whose backyard is often visited by the bird, who has a penchant for the sunflower seeds that are left out for him and has been coming around for 15 years. "It is really impressive (when) he puts those feathers out."
Food is a motivating factor in the relationship. "If he's hungry, he'll come over," said Enholm, just before the bird wandered into his backyard. "He seems very content right now."
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.
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