Neighbours go to court to silence lonely peacocks

Peacocks at the Retreat Castle Hotel
Peacocks at the Retreat Castle Hotel
Have your say

THEY have been strutting their stuff for more than 100 years, becoming such a famous attraction that streets were even named after them.

But the bird equivalent of an antisocial behaviour order – pursued by more recent human incomers – has led to a court case and peacocks evicted for good from an area of a Midlothian town.

Four of Bonnyrigg’s best-known peacocks were sent packing after claims that their loud mating calls drove residents round the bend.

Percey, Max, Jam and Nacho, who until recently happily roamed the grounds of The Retreat Castle Hotel on Cockpen Road, were up before the beak at the Edinburgh Justice of the Peace Court this week.

A petition, signed by 26 neighbours, sought an enforcement order to silence the amorous birds. As it turned out, court action was not necessary as hotel owners Peter Hood, 46, and wife Judith, 38, had already agreed their days were numbered.

The problem was the absence of a peahen after she flew away last year, leaving the peacocks mating calls to become increasingly desperate.

Mrs Hood, a mother-of-two, said: “They are beautiful creatures and they were a great draw for the hotel. One minute guests would be eating their breakfast and the next thing they would have this gorgeous display of feathers. The kids absolutely loved them.

“But once you get into the mating season, around March to July, they do get very loud. They start once the sun is up, at around 6am or 7am.

“It was always our intention that we would have to remove them for everyone’s sanity.”

They started receiving complaints about the noise after residents moved in to new housing at the end of last year on ground which was previously part of the hotel property – part of the peacocks’ territory.

Far from fighting the request, the couple said they sympathised with the residents and made plans to give the peacocks away. However, it took months to catch the birds, with the court action lodged in the meantime.

The birds have now gone – two to the Duke of Argyll’s estate, more than 100 miles away, while the other two are at a local farm in Auchendinny.

“It was very hard catching them because once you make an attempt to catch them, they’re very clever and won’t go near you,” she said.

Several street names in the area honour the birds, including Peacock Place and Peacock Parkway.

Looking for love

SENIOR bird keeper at Edinburgh Zoo, Gavin Harrison, compared the noise level from the “really loud whooping calls” of a peacock to that of a car alarm continually going off.

“I couldn’t say what it is in decibels, but I can guarantee it is above the legal decibel level,” he said. “It’s certainly comparable to a car alarm going off.

“The call is to encourage a female into their territory. They’re looking for love, calling away and hoping a female will come along. In the meantime, they are creating a very loud noise very early in the morning – that’s why a lot of people have so many problems with peacocks in residential areas.

“They could well be calling from 4am to 8am in the morning onwards; it’s a very loud incessant call.”