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Squawks Get the Better of Peacocks

Court sides with residents in ordering Palos Verdes Estates to remove the birds.

May 14, 2003|Hilda Munoz | Times Staff Writer

Peacocks may be aesthetically pleasing, but the birds are anything but pleasant to live with, according to some disgruntled residents in Palos Verdes Estates. Now a judge has sided with those residents, ordering the removal of more than 40 peafowl wandering two neighborhoods.

"The peafowl have been very disruptive. They keep us awake at night," said Bill Goldman, a 15-year Espinosa Circle resident and plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city. "Unless you've heard [their screeching], it is surprising how loud it is."

Aside from delivering strident serenades in the middle of the night, the birds, which weigh up to 13 pounds, can crack roof tiles and denude gardens, and can scratch cars if they decide to use a sedan as a perch.

Goldman and some of his sleep-deprived neighbors may soon enjoy some relief. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jane L. Johnson decided Monday that the city's peafowl policy violates a 1928 deed restriction that, with the exception of cats and dogs, prohibits domesticated animals in the city -- particularly, cattle, rabbits and poultry -- without written permission.

City officials were taken by surprise.

"The judge's ruling was certainly unexpected and we think it's wrong," said City Manager James Hendrickson.

Ed Richards, the attorney who represented Palos Verdes Estates, said the peafowl are not domesticated but, rather, wild birds and thus city controlled.

"We don't feed them. We don't water them. We don't protect them. We don't build shelters for them," he said.

"I think we have very strong grounds to appeal if the city chooses to do that."

Fifteen years ago, in an effort to appease complaints by people who claimed the birds were a nuisance and environmentalists who opposed trapping them, the city developed a peafowl management policy, Richards said.

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