The Feral Peacocks of Cape Canaveral
Apr 08, 2022
It’s fun to drive north in Florida on that strip from Cocoa Beach, between the Atlantic and Banana River, up to Cape Canaveral. The surfing vibe blends with space travel, and there’s magic in the air. As usual, I am thinking of birds and getting my fill of hawks, vultures, and egrets along the way. My niece Sara was driving, and little did I know had a surprise for me. She had discovered a special place she knew I would love.
We got into some residential areas entering Cape Canaveral with cute stucco homes and exotic plants, dogs, cats—what you might expect in a nice Florida neighborhood. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something scurry across the road ahead and Sara laughed. It seemed much larger than the gray squirrels back home. Then I heard the call, like a meow mixed with a monkey scream. Just as I turned towards the sound, a big blue peacock hopped up onto someone’s roof. But aren’t they usually in India?
Continuing to a nearby street, I saw peahens (female) and peacocks (male) running in every direction through yards and flying up over fences. It’s total mayhem as there is a large population (a Harem, Party, or a Muster) and their courtship rituals are in full swing in early April. I never saw anything like it! I wanted to get out to get some good photos, but I have learned from the aggressive wild turkeys near my house in Massachusetts to stay in the car while they are mating. Also, these were private residences.
I shot out of the window instead with my zoom lens and cell phone as Sara rolled us slowly and safely through the scene. Males and females took over every yard on the street. A cat slept nearby under a pine tree and dogs watched as the big shiny birds jumped and flew wherever they pleased.
Male peacocks splayed out their tail feather trains, dancing slightly to 45º, finding that sweet angle of the sun that best reflects their striking iridescent eyes, a move to invite the ladies and ward off competition. A brilliant and full train is said to be most attractive to females and symbolizes pride and nobility. The male will face the peahen head on and shake, shake, shake his tall feather train before mating. This creates a rattling sound like the rustling of wind through tall grass. The funny thing is the eyes on the feathers seem to stay still. You can see the effect on my closeup photo below.
Peahens (females) do also put up their tail feathers to threaten other females. But peahens are green. My photo below is of a young male peacock who has not grown in his beautiful train yet, just practicing his moves. Around age three he should be sporting those famous long eye feathers.
It was a wildly exciting afternoon and a special gift to experience the peafowl, even though they are not indigenous to Florida and feral. Their visually stunning blue hue is unmatched and their tail trains breathtaking!