Two peacocks in a pod: Pair of birds settling in at park

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Neil Johnson
Friday, August 17, 2012

— When Edgerton's resident peacock had his mate fly away earlier this summer, he squawked, bugled and fretted for days.

Then the love of his life—a silver and white peahen—came home. Volunteers clipped the hen's flight wings, and the neighborhood soon quieted of the bright green and blue male's shrill peacock screams.

At the 1-acre penned meadow at Racetrack Park, where the Edgerton Conservation Club has housed two adult peafowl since early June, all is well again.

Members of the outdoors club say the two birds haven't made a peep in weeks, and they're starting to warm up to residents and volunteers who come to feed them and the four whitetail deer that share space inside the fenced area at the park.

The club has had a lease at the park for decades, and it has kept deer and other animals there for years, club member Kevin Slagg of Edgerton said.

Slagg and his wife, Bonnie, care for the animals in the penned area, which has an eight-foot chain fence, tall grass, a creek and a stand of trees.

The club got the peacocks from a woman in rural Janesville who has raised peacocks for years. The club's secretary, Shelly McGuire of Edgerton, said club members decided to add peacocks because it's been years since the club had birds.

McGuire said a large white goose lived in the pen for more than a decade, but it died a few years ago. The goose was beloved by the community and known by many as "The Boss," McGuire said.

"It was time that we got some more birds out there. We thought as a club it would be a neat thing to have," she said. "It's a nice thing, the enclosure. People take their kids there and feed the deer apples and corn and carrots."

McGuire said the peacocks add to the interest at the park, although she's not sure if many people know the birds are out there. She said the birds spend much of their time foraging in the tall grass.

Peacocks are a type of large pheasant, according to the National Geographic Society, and they are known for their distinguishing characteristics: bright, colorful tail feathers that male peafowl grow.

Males arch their tail feathers as a courting ritual to entice females. Female peacocks are believed to choose mates based on the size and vibrancy of color of a male's train of feathers, which can grow up to 60 inches.

Edgerton's male peacock is lucky; with just he and his mate in the pen, he's got no competition. That's fortunate, because right now he's also got no tail feathers. He lost them earlier this month when he molted, although the plumage eventually will grow back, McGuire said.

Slagg said the peacocks are tolerant of people and the deer, and it's been weeks since June, when the female flew off.

Slagg said the peahen "took off like a helicopter" and ended up in a nearby marsh north of Edgerton High School. Club members found her three or four days later after neighbors reported they'd been feeding a large, white bird.

People reported the male trumpeted and squealed day and night while his mate was gone.

"He was very lonely, and he made it well known that he wasn't happy about it," McGuire said.

Residents near the park weren't happy about the ruckus, and some complained to the city. The city's parks committee last month reviewed the incident and decided to approve the club adding peafowl to its 50-year lease with the city.

The birds have apparently been quiet since their rocky start, and the club continues to clip their wings so they can't fly away.

Parks Committee Chairman Mark Wellnitz said as long as the birds stay quiet and healthy, the city will allow the club to keep them at Racetrack Park.

That could be a long-term commitment. Peacocks can live in captivity for up to 40 years, according to some estimates. Edgerton's peafowl are young, about three years old, McGuire said.

For its part, the club plans to continue to feed the birds medicated corn feed, clip their flight wings and give them regular veterinarian care just as they do for the resident deer.

The penned area has a large shelter the birds can use for cover in winter, club members said.

It's not clear if the club will try to create a new generation of peacocks. Members haven't yet decided whether they'll breed the birds, McGuire said.

Last updated: 5:08 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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