By Terry Miller
A Peacock walks into a liquor store! It sounds like the beginning of a really bad joke, but for one Arcadia store manager, it was all too real and looking back now, he can truly have a good laugh about the unexpected guest.
It was an uneventful day at a Royal Oaks liquor store on First Avenue at about 8:20 a.m. Monday morning until a customer alerted the manager that there was a “chicken” in the store.
Store manager Rani Ghanem told Arcadia Weekly that an unusual customer simply meandered his way into his store – he didn’t notice anything unusual as the sensors on the doors didn’t recognize the customer. “It was only when a customer started saying that there was a “chicken” in the store, did I realize it was, in fact, a Peacock,” Ghanem said.
The ‘customer’ just flew into Royal Oaks Liquors in the 500 block of North First Avenue as the door was open according to store manager Rani Ghanem.
He realized he had a problem when the Peacock flew directly at Ghanen. “It flew directly towards me and in process smashing several bottles of champagne and wine,” Ghanem said.
“What a mess I had to clean up,” he continued. “That’s when I dialed 9-1-1”
“I tried to help the bird out of the store, but he refused to leave… we have really nice air conditioning in here.”
Animal control contained the peacock and relocated the thirsty bird to the Arboretum. The peacock ended up knocking down about $500 worth of wine and champagne, Ghanen told Arcadia Weekly. According to law, Peacocks are a protected species, even feeding them comes with a big fine, up to $1000 and six months of jail time. No word yet on what the fine is for a Peacock who goes on a bender in a liquor store.
Now who is responsible for the overabundance of Peafowl? Well, historically it’s Arcadia’s founder. Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, the colorful and rather ostentatious founder of Arcadia, was no stranger to disputes. When pushing for city hood in 1903, he was vehemently accused of illegally inflating population figures, according to the Los Angeles Times in an article published May 7, 2010. Many in the community at that time claimed he wanted only to create a city for personal reasons like “ribaldry, racing, gambling and gaming,” according to a Los Angeles Times article in 2010. Now, he is being ‘charged’ for the perpetuation of peafowl in the populous areas around the Arboretum. Baldwin apparently introduced some of these exotic animals to his ranch from India in 1880 and they have propagated ever since in the communities surrounding Arcadia.
In 1875, Baldwin purchased about 8,000 acres of land then known as Rancho Santa Anita for $200,000 and made it his home. He planted acres of fruit trees, grapevines and raised sheep, cattle, hogs and horses. Baldwin really had a soft spot for birds according to historian Sandy Snider: Apparently the best way to get fired from a job on the Baldwin Ranch was to mistreat an animal, especially Peacocks. No one knows the exact number of peafowl Baldwin imported from India, but by the 1880s “there were some 50 of them on the ranch.” Snider says in her book “Arcadia: Where Ranch and City Meet.”
Some love ‘em and some hate ‘em. Residents such as retired Pasadena Police officer Thomas Burns who lives a block west of the Arboretum is fed up with the peafowl destroying his plants, and littering his yard. Actually he and his wife are fed up and want the city to “do something.”
He’s not the only one. Residents in this affluent neighborhood are had it and want the city to “do something” about it.
Scores of streets in Arcadia are “littered” with the peafowl says one neighbor across from the Arboretum. A drive down a residential road confirmed the fact that driving is not only difficult when they cross the road to another garden but the numbers are extraordinary. The Arboretum says the peacocks are not their birds, they’re feral and therefore “everyone’s birds,” in a manner of speaking.
Susan Eubank at the Arboretum Library said a research study conducted three years ago had the count of birds in the Arboretum at 150. But estimates of a much higher number exist, depending on who you talk to. The birds can be seen on rooftops, car tops and in gardens. In the Burns’ home, at any given time the number of birds feeding on his plants is approximately 9. We counted over 200 just in one neighborhood on Tuesday evening.