Wandering Peacocks of NYC

Peacock in April in fresh breeding feathers.

The free-roaming peacocks of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine on Amsterdam Avenue exert a strange fascination.

The white peacock bears an uncanny resemblance to my paternal grandmother in her later years.

In June, when a maintenance man rattled a cookie tin filled with food, the white peacock eagerly hopped a fence and positively hustled to get some chow.


The peacock chowed down.

Puttin' on the feed bag

He appeared completely unfazed by a large troop of day campers traipsing noisily past.

Just another peacock sighting

and greedily gobbled his bird chow.

Staring down dinner.

Three male peacocks, gifts from the Bronx Zoo, roam all over the Cathedral grounds. The maintenance man told me that when the birds first arrived as young fellows, they would wander into the neighborhood, prompting worried phone calls from residents: “Hey, I just saw one of your peacocks over on Broadway.”  Someone from the Cathedral would head over to collect the errant bird and bring it home.

As far as I know, the Cathedral birds now stay close to home.  But a desire to ramble seems to regularly overtake New York City peacocks and peahens. In May 2011, a peahen bolted from the Bronx Zoo.

Peahen in Bronx Street (credit: ALDAG/AFP/Getty Images)

After several days of sightings and capture attempts, the bird was nabbed in a Bronx parking garage, and returned to the zoo. “In general,” said zoo director Jim Breheny, the zoo’s peacocks are “not inclined to leave the property, but for some reason this bird just got curious.”

A few months later in August, strollers on Fifth Avenue were startled by the sight of a peacock perched outside a fifth floor window.  The bird turned out to be an escapee from the Central Park Zoo.

Peacock rests on window ledge high above Fifth Avenue. Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters.

Zoo officials maintained that the peacock was likely to return home of its own accord and, after a night of adventurous sightseeing (and some serious tweeting), the bird did just that.

The Cathedral peacocks have already molted, losing most of their gorgeous breeding plumage and, until spring, will resemble the more modestly feathered peahen.

Mostly molted peacock

Check back soon to find out what Flannery O’Connor thought of peacocks and to see more photos of the Saint John’s trio.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2011, April, Birds, In the City, June, Peacocks, Seasons, September, Summer, Wildlife/Natural History

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7 Comments on “Wandering Peacocks of NYC”

  1. […] White Peacock of Morningside Heights NYC Peacocks and Blossoms Peacock Razzle-Dazzle (with video) Wandering Peacocks of NYC NYC Peacocks on Hurricane Sunday Spring in Three Cities Two-Eyed Prophecy of Spring White Birds of […]

  2. Wild_Bill Says:

    The things you see in NYC! Peacocks look so out of place there. Let’s face it, you are a long way from the far east! Really enjoyed the education about wildlife in urban America. Always a pleasure!

  3. Barbara Says:

    What a great sight that would be – I’ve always loved peacocks and peahens from the time I was a child and saw them at a small zoo as part of a larger park, run by Ministry of Natural Resources staff. There were deer too, and I had my first up close and personal encounter with Bambi – but nothing ever stuck with me the way the sight of those peacocks with their tails fanned… what a breath-taking sight – for me anyway adult or child.

    How lucky you are to have them. The thought of peacocks in the church yard in NYC just has to make everyone smile! such a great story and post… thanks

  4. Charlotte Says:

    I thought of outwalkingthedog the other day when I was at the Los Angeles County Arboretum; peacocks stroll about the grounds looking for handouts, where plenty of people are willing to oblige. But no white peacocks; that rare bird I’ll always associate with St. John the Divine… or now, your grandmother.

    • p hoey Says:

      Maverick peacocks! Wonderful to read about their adventures,
      and survivals, on the Upper West Side…Are they as adventurous
      after molting, I wonder?

      • Good question. I imagine they stay close to home. I don’t know specifically about peacocks, but some birds, including most ducks and other water fowl, actually cannot fly after a full molt, and have to wait for their wing feathers to grow back.

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