Last week I was driving through the centre of our Suffolk village on some errand or other when I had to swerve suddenly to avoid a peacock in the road in front of me. I had seen this exotic stranger once or twice previously and have to ask myself where it came from and how it got there.
My daughter lives with her own family not far away and when she moved in at the beginning of the year the local community was divided over what should be done about peacocks living wild in the village. There were three of them, and some people thought they were an interesting and unusual local attraction – other people were fed up with their loud screeching and the mess they made. A few weeks later one of them was shot, by person or persons unknown, and the population appears now to have been reduced to one survivor.
It now appears that other communities are struggling to come to terms with these unwanted residents. The Daily Telegraph reported that a peacock roaming wild in Thimbleby, North Yorkshire, has been shot recently after appearing unexpectedly some 18 months ago. No police action has been taken, although fingers are pointed at a number of possible culprits, driven to distraction by their nocturnal calling.
This aroused my curiosity so after a little research I found out that the peacock problem is more widespread than I had ever supposed.
In Durham the people of Ushaw Moor, a former mining village, have suffered from a full invasion of this alien species. The first peacocks appeared over 15 years ago and have now multiplied to an estimated 30 birds – both male and female. Not content with loud mating calls throughout the night, they are now starting to attack cars parked outside. They have been seen pecking obsessively at their own reflections – which they think to be a rival for the peahens’ affections. The townsfolk have now lobbied the County Council for a solution. Death or captivity, they want rid of their peacocks. The Council is currently investigating to determine whether they create a statutory noise nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, but if so what would they do? Can you apply for a Court Order against peacocks?
Meanwhile Councillor Holt in Bramhall, Stockport, has taken on the responsibility for rounding up another troupe of unwanted peacocks that first came on the scene a couple of years ago. Welcomed at first by local residents as a new attraction, and well established since then, they are now creating havoc in pursuit of the opposite sex, going on the rampage, scratching cars, squawking loudly and eating garden plants. Ms Holt is now trying to lure them into a purpose built £1000 shed so they can be shipped off to captivity.
Another gang has flown in to Beccles in Norfolk. Originally numbering only seven, this ostentation (yes, this is the proper collective noun for peacocks) is now expanding through breeding. In Overton, Yorkshire, the community is divided over a couple of peacocks recently arrived in the village. They are a breeding pair, so it will be interesting to hear how people feel in a couple of years time as numbers start to increase. In Sittingbourne, Kent, peacocks have been running wild for the past ten years.
And the list goes on, from Lothian, Scotland to Clyst St Mary, Exeter, Harrogate, Hurstpeirpoint, Hornchurch, Margaretting, Brentwood and Rochford. These beautiful exotic creatures seem free to plague communities all over the Country, damaging cars, windows, even dislodging roof tiles when they fly up to roost. Hard to catch or trap, the RSPCA pass the buck to the police, the police to the local authorities, the local authorities hope the problem will go away. None are empowered to act.
No wonder gunfire can be heard at night around the housing estates of Great Britain!