15 August 1997

Lovely to look at but not too good to hear…

DESPITE their beauty, peacocks can make their owners unpopular with the neighbours. Their loud wailing cry which carries far and wide and their preference for roosting on neighbours roofs rather than within their owners extensive properties, can cause upset throughout the locality and it is a point that Tom Gardiner addresses in his book*.

These characteristics are matters that potential owners should take into account before they purchase these birds and while there is no easy answer to the noise problem, the straying can be limited by paying attention to the composition of the birds social groups, advises Mr Gardiner.

He has answered peoples peacock questions for a decade but does not claim to be an expert, rather a "collector and disseminator of information." Peacocks belong to the same family as the pheasant and it was Mr Gardiners responsibilities to the World Pheasant Association which put him in the firing line for questions and ultimately led to this book, one he was more or less delegated to write to fill a gap in the pheasant fanciers bookshelf.

Mr Gardiner describes the natural lifestyle of the several peafowl species as well as good management practices for those who wish to breed and raise domestic birds.

These striking creatures feature in art and legend and are closely associated with the religions of the Far East, from whence most of them originate. But human disturbance threatens their existence in their homelands, both in the eastern countries and in central Africa, home of the Congo peafowl.

Mr Gardiner writes of the conservation work in hand but warns: "Peafowl cannot protect themselves from the actions of humankind – we must do it for them. Captive peafowl have enriched and adorned our human lives for centuries, but if the current rate of decline in the populations of their wild relatives continues at its present rate then they will soon be gone forever."AR

*Peafowl – their conservation breeding and management – by T P Gardiner is available from the World Pheasant Association, PO Box 5, Lower Basildon, Reading, Berks RG8 9PF (£32.95 inc p&p).