Peahen in a Great Neck resident’s backyard (Photo from Christy Orquera)

Feathers And Folly

Resident ruffled as majestic peacock appears in backyard

Last night around 9 p.m., I put the dog outside for her nighttime ‘go’ before bed,” said the homeowner who lives on Middle Neck Road in Great Neck. “It’s dark out here, but I looked over from the backdoor and I see what looks like a bird, a big bird, so I take a picture; now this thing is like two feet long…it’s huge and I don’t know exactly what it is or what to do.”

The homeowner, who will be refereed to as ‘John’ for privacy reasons, tried to dismiss the idea, but awoke several times throughout the night to see if this bird was still in his backyard and each time he confirmed, yes, indeed it was still there.

The bird that John was seeing was a peahen on Thursday, April 18. The term “peacock” is commonly used to refer to birds of both sexes. Technically, only males are peacocks. Females are peahens, and together, they are called peafowl.

“This morning I looked outside and it was walking around the backyard, seemingly content, scooting behind some of the driveway bushes,” John said. “I threw some berries to it while I sent pictures and called several help agencies, the local veterinarian, 311, a bird sanctuary and animal control. No one seemed to be able or want to help except one rescue organization who would not have a freed resource until 11 p.m. the following night; several people told me to just leave it alone.”

John and his family were processing through some unrelated grief since the loss of one of their own pets.

“The idea of leaving this peacock in my yard without proper food and shelter was only adding to my stress,” John said. “I remembered attending a local bird talk at Great Neck Library, specifically about the birds of Udall’s Pond, delivered by the head reference librarian, Christy Orquera; I thought, maybe she would have an idea of who to call or what to do.”

John called the reference desk at Great Neck Library and asked the on-desk librarian to relay a message to Orquera. The message had been quickly transcribed as “peacock on the roof…call John..urgent.” It was quickly determined that “roof,” meant on the lid of his backyard storage container for patio furniture, but nonetheless, it was not a usual question at the library’s reference desk.
Orquera was preparing to take her lunch break but she had to see this peacock for herself. She was not sure she could assist and messaged fellow Great Neck birdwatcher Matt Klein who was definitely the right person for this call for help. He was unavailable, but his advice was also to leave it alone, that it would fly away when it was ready.

With the dedication to customer service, and of course the allure of anything bird-related, Orquera had to see this reference call for help all the way through. She drove over to John’s house to have a look.

“If nothing else, I was going to snap a few pictures for the novelty, have a laugh about it being an odd request at the reference desk and explain to John that the peahen would be okay if he chose to leave it alone,” Orquera said. “Funny thing is, this is not the wackiest reference desk request that we have ever received, but I am a bird nerd.”

When Orquera arrived at John’s house, she found the peahen happily sunning herself on the edge of the driveway near the bushes. They quickly named her “Pepper” and Orquera made a call to Butch Yamali’s team at Milleridge Inn in Jericho.

“I have been an acquaintance of Butch and his team at Milleridge for years and I know they have roaming peacocks. I also knew that this peahen was probably someone’s pet nearby because she was so sweet; having previously owned chickens, Pepper did not appear totally cared for; her feathers seemed a bit ruffled and her crest feathers [on top of her head] were nearly missing,” Orquera said. “I love birds and would have loved to take her home but my dog would not be happy sharing the backyard with her and the screeching calls of a lonely peacock would terrify the neighbors.”

Seeing the desperation on John’s face, she knew she would not leave the bird in his car. She offered to move the bird to Milleridge Inn and quickly made a call, alerting Yamali that a new guest was enroute to the Inn.

John’s electrician, Jacob from JHACS Electric in Mineola, arrived to do some scheduled work at the same time the plan was unfolding to move Pepper to Milleridge Inn. Orquera pressed Jacob into “Mission Peacock” and without even a second thought, dropped his tool bag and began to corral the bird.

Pepper had other plans. She got spooked and hopped, not one fence, but four fences. John joked that the loose peacock running through the neighbors’ yards had given him a chance to finally meet some of them for the first time. Jacob was still trailing the bird with the librarian in tow. He scooped Pepper up, as Orquera called out, “Hug her like a football and bring her to me.”

“Pepper” with other peacocks at the Milleridge Inn (Photo from Christy Orquera)

Orquera swaddled Pepper in a baby blanket and they made their way to Milleridge Inn.

John remembered seeing peacocks on the Milleridge property years ago, but he was amazed to see just how many there actually were, strutting around and hanging out, sunning themselves. Freddy, one of the Dover Group’s general managers at Milleridge Inn, met Orquera and John upon arrival.

“We do not own the peacocks that are here, they just sort of live here and never leave; they are happy and we are happy to have them,” Freddy said. “They eat well; visitors feed them.”

Orquera released Pepper into a garden area with dozens of peacocks milling around. The resident peacocks all gathered around Pepper to welcome her to the flock, while also letting her know that pecking order initiation would begin promptly.

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