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Peacocks become a colorful problem in Florida

Some Florida neighborhoods are overrun with peacocks, but not all agree that the colorful birds should be removed.

By Tamara LushAssociated Press Writer / December 31, 2009

A peacock, left, fans his feathers in a courtship display to a peahen on a rooftop in Longboat Key, Fla. Some residents want the birds removed because they are noisy and destructive.

Tamara Lush/AP

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LONGBOAT KEY, Fla.

Kip O'Neill worried that peacocks would ruin her family's Christmas.

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Her Gulf coast neighborhood is overrun with them: large, regal, noisy, messy birds. Some mornings, Ms. O'Neill finds 30 of them on her roof.

They squawk. They invade yards. They damage cars.

O'Neill said the pesky fowl have pecked her Lexus so much it had to be repainted — twice.

"They poop all in my pool and on my porch," O'Neill said, as two birds wandered onto her front lawn. "They are so destructive and noisy."

The Longboat Key flock, at least 80 birds strong, attacks dark-colored cars because they see their reflection and think it's another bird.

Because of repeated complaints from people like O'Neill, officials on this Florida island have started trapping and moving the colorful birds. They're planning another roundup in the next month to cull the population.

On a recent day, about two dozen peafowl — that's the word for both male and female birds — lazed in a driveway and on a fence of a large home. One male bird displayed his plumage in the sun atop a roof.

"I don't hate the birds, but I know 80 is too many for a tiny village," said Michael Drake, president of the homeowners' association on the section of Longboat Key that is plagued by the peacocks. There are about 200 homes on that part of the island.

Mr. Drake was the one to push for the removal. He describes in great detail how he lays out corn for the birds over the course of a few weeks so they "get to know" him. Then, one day, he throws the corn in his garage so he can trap the birds inside until a critter control company can come to pick them up. The neighborhood association gets reimbursed by local governments for the expense.

"They don't kill the birds," he added. "They bring them to farms. Farmers love them because they eat insects."

The island has to continually remove the birds because they reproduce so frequently. A peahen can lay five or more eggs at a time, and without any natural predators the population grows rapidly. It costs taxpayers some $2,500 a year to relocate the peacocks from Longboat Key.

Peacocks aren't just a Longboat Key issue; communities from Coconut Grove in South Florida to Plant City to Cape Canaveral have grappled with how to deal with the noisy, nonnative birds. Cities in California and Texas have also reported problems with peafowl.