BIRDS IN SALEM

COLUMN: The mystery of the south Salem peafowl

Peafowl explore a home on Southeast Norwood Street in south Salem (Harry Fuller/Special to Salem Reporter)

In southeast Salem we have neighbors that are loud—in sound and costume. Even my neighbors who’ve been here three decades are not sure where these newcomers came from, nor where their home is. Unless they are homeless. These gawdy pedestrians are peafowl—peacock and peahen, maybe even peayouth.

They are Indian peafowl, with the showy fan tails. Pavo cristatus. Pavo = peacock. Cristatus = crested. 

Recently I saw a trio of them exploring my neighbors’ gardens and even a porch. It was a male with two females, or one female and one juvie as one was notably smaller. I have been told there can be a quartet or occasional just single birds about our party of town. They amble about slowly, careful of cars, wary of dogs, careless of our species.  

Peafowl explore on Southeast Norwood Street in south Salem (Harry Fuller/Special to Salem Reporter)

Peafowl explore a home on Southeast Norwood Street in south Salem (Harry Fuller/Special to Salem Reporter)

Like the introduced wild turkeys and the Canada geese who never leave, these large birds got here through human intervention. If they become an established population in our part of town, they are likely to become noticed, notorious and gain notoriety, perhaps even be welcomed. They are far more interesting than the neighbor’s cat who glares at from under a car, or some tree squirrel chattering at you from a utility pole.

The call of the peacock is a loud wail. Large birds, they can have a wingspan of four feet, weigh nine pounds and the male with full tail regalia can be five feet long. They easily fly into trees or onto rooftops. The peafowl are omnivores—eating seeds, insects, fruits, small mammals and reptiles. 

Peafowl are not unprecedented here or elsewhere in the western U.S.

One man wrote this to me: “I went to Western Oregon University in Monmouth in the late “aughts” and frequently took River Rd S from Independence to Salem … There was at the time a persistent population of feral peafowl in the woods along the road which were vocal enough that they could be heard easily and over the sound of traffic of the windows were down.”

Another local told me: “There is a quite large … population at Horning’s Hideout in rural Washington County outside North Plains. They are common enough that they’ve been adopted as the logo/symbol by the String Summit music festival held there each summer.”

A third comment: “I was asked about peacocks in Corvallis last month (June) and through several conversations found out that they were being seen in various areas in Corvallis and northward.”

There is a peafowl flock in Portland that is apparently popular with local hominids.

The Los Angeles Arboretum is proud of its peafowl, in southern California since 1879. More recently, peafowl have caused some problems in Los Angeles neighborhoods.

For information about upcoming Salem Audubon programs and activities, see www.salemaudubon.org, or Salem Audubon’s Facebook page.

Harry Fuller is an Oregon birder and natural history author of “Freeway Birding.” He is a member of the Salem Audubon Society. Contact him at [email protected] or atowhee.blog. His “Some Fascinating Things About Birds” column appears regularly in Salem Reporter.

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