MIAMI — Peacock lovers from Iowa, Nebraska and other states are ready and willing to adopt Miami’s unwanted birds if only Miamians would accept their offer of a new and loving home.
Proliferating peafowl with the uncouth habits of howling and pooping — often simultaneously — could roam free on a peacock farm in America’s rural heartland or a koi farm in Spring City, Tenn. No longer shunned as an invasive nuisance, they could display their bejeweled feathers with pride — and enjoy all the corn they can eat. But their resettlement will require some peacock wrangling. And a trip to the post office.
Finally, a solution, thanks to Dennis Fett and Debra Joan Buck, aka Mr. and Mrs. Peacock, eager to take in peafowl and peachicks at their four-acre Peacock Information Center in Minden, Iowa, or find owners for them. Since a Miami Herald article on Fett’s answer to Miami’s peacock problem ran Oct. 28, he has received more than 50 inquiries on his website plus calls from people who would welcome the beautiful birds on their property.
But Fett has heard nothing from Miami, save one email on Tuesday from Rosie Rodriguez, who asked for advice and attached photos of peafowl swarming her front porch: “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Peacock,” she began, “It was exciting originally, however now there are more birds than neighbors. We have tried trapping them, using sonic sound systems, etc. We need your help in this matter.”
“I used to think they were awesome but they have gotten out of control and now I think they’re horrible,” said Rodriguez, who lives near Sunset Drive and Southwest 75th Avenue. She and her neighbors are desperate. “They sit on my pool screen and poop in the water. I’ve called every wildlife center you can think of, and the response is always thanks but no thanks. No one wants them.”
Fett does. Send him your peacocks. For those who are aggrieved, especially in poop-covered parts of Coconut Grove where the birds are being shot with BB guns, this is a sincere proposal.
“It’s a perfect opportunity for Miami,” Fett said. “The article touched the hearts of people who are reaching out to Miami. This is a chance to find a better home for these birds. They will love it out in the country. The grasshoppers, crickets and bugs are delicious. We’ve got lots of corn. They’ll adapt to the cold weather. By next summer they’ll forget about Florida.
“I don’t want them to be killed or cause animosity. So stop complaining and make your feet move as fast as your mouth.”
It’s illegal to hunt or harm peafowl in Miami-Dade County. They can be removed but can’t be released into the wild; they must be transferred to a preserve or an owner who will protect them. No animal sanctuaries or zoos in Florida will take them. So here comes Fett — and farmers like him — to the rescue.
The only catch: You’ve got to catch them.
It’s not an easy task corralling a wild 15-pound bird and putting him in a shipping box. But Fett has tips. He is an expert. The retired clarinet player and music teacher has consulted on peacock problems in many places. In fact, he was summoned to the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles by Hugh Hefner — who was a peacock fancier, just like Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. It seems Playboy Bunnies were stepping their high heels in poop during photo shoots by the swimming pool. Fett used a fishing line baited with food to lure the birds away and showed Hef’s gardener how to keep them at a distance.
Gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson used to buy peacocks for $85 from Fett for his Colorado ranch.
“Hunter was mesmerized by them but he didn’t listen to me and many got lost in the woods,” he said.
And Fett, who ships more than 1,000 hatching eggs per year to customers from Alaska to Puerto Rico, was once hired to catch a peacock that ran away from a circus.
“That was a white one from Florida,” he said. “Took me a few hours but I ambushed him coming around a tree.”
Fett suggests putting out cracked corn or wild bird seed to attract peafowl. Then use a fishing net to restrain them. Or lure them into your garage, close the door and corner them.
“Wear gloves, be quick,” he said. “Go for the legs and feet, grab them in your right hand and tuck the bird under your left arm. I’ve never been pecked, but I’ve been slapped by the wings. They are strong and they’ll flap a lot and kick their legs, but be firm and they’ll stop squirming.”
Try not to curse or scream.
“Baby talk will calm them down,” he said. “Be a good boy, now.’ Even though they have bird brains they’ll listen.”
Peachicks are easier to snag but you’ll have to distract their parents or “Mama might try to attack,” Fett said.
Stick the peafowl in a dog kennel until you have the proper box, which you can find at a pet store or order from Horizon Micro Environments, which sells “bio secure containers” ideal for the U.S. Postal Service, which allows mailing of live birds. Fett usually puts bird food in a small container and tapes it to a corner inside the box and throws in cut-up apples and oranges. Peafowl can survive three days without water, he said. Don’t worry if the long tail feathers get damaged. They’ll grow back.
Mail via Priority or Express. It’ll cost between $50 and $89 depending on weight and ZIP code. Repeat.
Rodriguez did. She and her neighbors have tried everything to get rid of the 50 peafowl destroying their yards. They hired a trapper who was going to take the birds to a land owner in Homestead, but only raccoons and feral cats got trapped in the cages and he gave up after two weeks. They bought an $800 high-frequency sound machine guaranteed to scare away the birds; it worked for two days, then the peafowl came back — and the machine was returned for a refund. They were going to feed them a birth-control substance but discovered it doesn’t work on peafowl, only ducks. And they’ve tried catching them, but “they’re as fast as the Road Runner or they fly high into a tree,” said Rodriguez, who has a lung disease aggravated by the birds. “They are beautiful but they are pests. You can’t live with them.”
She would like to invite Fett to Miami to give educational seminars or assist with a peafowl roundup. Maybe the peacock-weary could pool their money and rent a trailer for him to transport the birds to new homes.
“Otherwise these animal lovers in South Florida need to come get them and put them on their property,” she said. “Or better yet, send the peacocks to their native land in India.”