Peacock Paradise

Peacock Paradise

This week our adventure is close to home.

Some of my loyal readers live in West Houston and are aware of the feral peafowl in our neighborhoods. It is not that unusual to be surprised by a peacock crossing a major street or standing around in a suburban yard. This might be strange in some places, but we are fairly accustomed to the exotic birds.

And there are reports of others in near downtown and even on the shores of Lake Houston.  Our climate must be suitable and our residents tolerant for them to thrive.

The correct term is Peafowl. The males are called peacocks and the females are peahens. But it is easier to say "peacocks" and you know what I mean. Most of the local peacocks seem to be the Indian peafowl variety from what I can tell.

Suburban peacock with squirrel  

Suburban peacock with squirrel  

The most famous and well known Houston peacocks are the ones from Vargo's. To explain, Vargo's was a very popular high-dollar lakeside restaurant. The setting was as wonderful as the food. Many weddings were held in the Gazebo and it was a very popular place for receptions and prom dinners.

I attended a fantastic Easter Brunch there back in the early 80s. I drank way too much champagne that day. In fact, after all that celebrating, I woke up in the night to get a drink of water. I remember looking out the window at the moon, it was so beautiful. Except I am blind as a bat and convinced myself it was an Easter miracle that my sight had been restored. Alas, I had fallen asleep wearing my contacts. 

But back to Vargo's. The restaurant fell on hard times and was closed a few years ago. The building was demolished and ... no one claimed the peacocks.  The site was developed, but we will have to wait until for another research trip to find out what is there now.

Sign on West Houston street 

Sign on West Houston street 

And the twenty or so Vargo  peacocks? The zoo didn't take them and I suspect they are living wild in the same neighborhood. 

But there are others....

This sign is near a huge estate that is rumored to be the birthplace of some of the West Houston peacocks. The often repeated (and unverified story) is a wealthy landowner bought a breeding pair as a present for his wife.

In time, they multiplied and spread around the Memorial area north of Buffalo Bayou. All I know is there are a lot of them to photograph.

Gates to large estate that might be the birthplace of the present peacock population

Gates to large estate that might be the birthplace of the present peacock population

The property is for sale. Click the link if you want to be entertained; it is 4.27 acres (17,280 sq meters) and the asking price is just shy of $4m.  Hell of a deal. And don't forget, it comes with peacocks!

Peacock perched on wall of estate 

Peacock perched on wall of estate 

I have been by this location a couple of time lately; the first time I only saw one peacock watching a bulldozer clear a new lot up the street, and more recently I saw eight. They are fairly tame; I was focusing on this one on the wall and another one walked right up behind me and squawked. It is rather startling, but he wasn't aggressive.

Feather detail 

Feather detail 

In fact, I got pretty close to take this. Amazing, no? The long showy feathers are not really tail feathers, but are called the train. The males shed those after the mating season.

Peacock feet 

Peacock feet 

Of course you wanted to know what peacock feet look like up close!  The horny spurs are quite visible on these males; Peafowl belong to the Galliformes order, same as chickens, turkeys and quails.

Molting peacock?

Molting peacock?

Over by one of the houses I saw the above peacock. It looks like he losing his long train, but he still wants to spread it out and look fancy. You can see the brownish feathers; those are the actual tail feathers.

Residential neighborhood off Kirkwood 

Residential neighborhood off Kirkwood 

This area is several blocks over from the estate I showed you first. They really, really like this house. I see them roosting in the trees, in the flowerbeds, on the grass, in the driveway. I talked to one of the residents and he told me these peacocks were not escapees from Vargo's, they came from the wealthy landowner with the estate "over that way" and.... he says no one feeds them.

Irrespective of the  "starving and abandoned peacocks of Vargo's" these guys are doing just fine. Peafowl are omnivores; that means they eat bugs, insects, roots, grubs, small reptiles and mammals. They will eat anything. In fact, a lot of the internet stories are about peacocks eating flowers and vegetables. I hope these homeowners have closed trash cans.

River Forest peacock showing off  

River Forest peacock showing off  

This was taken last week. None of the females were the slightest bit interested; and mostly he was displaying for a vacant house ( just sold; a real bargain at $569K)  and my car.

Two peachicks and a peahen

Two peachicks and a peahen

Evidently some male was successful; here are two young chicks. The eggs are incubated by the female only and take about 28 days to hatch. The babies have downy feathers, open eyes and leave the nest shortly after hatching. 

And they are really hard to photograph. They are constantly on the move and bob their heads when they walk. aagghg. 

Male portrait 

Male portrait 

This is an adult male. These are used to humans and you can get close. That is actually white skin around his eyes and the iridescent colors are not caused by pigments, but by the structure of the feathers.

Young male India Blue Pied

Young male India Blue Pied

A few of the River Forest peacocks have a lot of white on their heads and even on their bodies. The pure white peacocks you see in the zoo are a variety and not albinos. If you think you want a couple of peacocks for your backyard, check out Bow's Peafowl Farm. A breeding pair can be had for as little as $120.

Wall detail in River Crest Estates 

Wall detail in River Crest Estates 

Another place with free-roaming peacocks is the River Crest Estates subdivision. It is just inside the Beltway and all the lots are a minimum of 3 acres and some are 10 acres. It is like being in the country; except for the landscapers and contractors. I think those houses are under constant renovation.

This is the where the socialite Joann King Herring lived. You remember her as the honorary consul to Pakistan in the movie Charlie Wilson's War.

Have you seen any peacocks in your travels around Houston?  What do you think happens to the peacocks when it gets cold? Do you have peacocks roaming your neighborhoods?  Did you ever go to Vargo's?

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