Island Issues

Is Florida Going to the Birds?

Is Florida Going to the Birds?

Amelia Island has a lot in common with a number of other Florida communities when it comes to fowl places to live as towns from Coconut Grove to Longboat Key and Plant City to Cape Canaveral have grappled with how to deal with the noisy, nonnative, invasive peafowl while Key West is fighting a chicken conflict.

Residents of all these locations have had their feathers ruffled over their respective birds with the Conch Republic’s dispute heading into its 30th year. Once just a quaint part of Key West culture, the chickens have multiplied and become a nuisance with residents fed up with crowing at 3 a.m., manure-fouled streets and beaches and aggressive bird behavior.

Many Key West residents want to sentence some of the more than 2,000 birds to the equivalent of KFC death row and Key West Assistant City Manager Jerry Jones summed up that municipality’s poultry problem telling the New York Times, ‘‘About half the town will kill you if you kill one and the other half will kill you if you don’t.”

The Peafowl flap on Amelia Island is relatively new and it appeared it was over when the birds were deported then returned to their original neighborhood through the intervention of State Senator Aaron Bean and Representative Janet Atkins but instead the ugliness may just be heating up.

Amicable and diplomatic professional trapper Nick Hartley was paid by fed-up residents to provide the fowl a tour of Nassau County carting the controversial birds from the island to heated pens on his mainland property and others to a county farm and then transporting them all back again to their original location when resident bird-lovers squawked. Maybe next year he’ll take them on a cruise.

But it could turn as malicious as the ones in Longboat Key and other state towns where residents have been involved in peafowl controversies that have involved numerous lawsuits, reports of damage to cars, ruined landscaping, all-night noise issues and more.

If the Amelia Island birds mimic their state-wide cousins, the folks on the receiving end of the Avian mischief may think twice before pulling the voting lever for Mr. Bean and Ms. Atkins in the next election.

Gary Morse of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission said peafowl can be aggressive and messy and can carry diseases. “The average Florida neighborhood is not a good place for a peacock,” he said. “Regardless of how beloved they are by residents.”

Did you know there is a national group dedicated to preserving the plumed birds, called the United Peafowl Association? I assume that it doesn’t provide peafowl recipes but I hear these relatives of the pheasant family go well with a raspberry sauce.

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