They steal, vandalize cars, and keep the neighbors awake by shrieking back and forth to each other at night. No, they aren't gangs of juvenile delinquents, but of peafowl, called either "prides" or "parties." Native to southern Asia and usually raised as domestic poultry in the U.S., the beautiful birds can run wild in warmer sections of the country such as California, Nevada, Florida, and Hawaii. There they occasionally ravage gardens and attack their reflections in the shiny surfaces of cars. If you are tired of them "partying" at your expense, discourage them with a few simple stratagems.
Take In the Welcome Mat
Free-ranging birds choose to hang around certain yards for a reason. They like to clean up leftover pet food or birdseed or rummage through a compost pile for vegetable scraps and insects. To discourage peacocks from returning to your property, always feed your pets indoors and install seed catchers on your bird feeders so that what gets scratched out isn't scattered enticingly over the ground instead. Cover your compost pile with netting or chicken wire to keep the big birds out of it. In gardens, the National Gardening Association notes, peafowl are especially attracted to white flowers and to young plants with tender, edible leaves, so those may need to be protected with netting as well.
Shower Them with Unkindness
Like most free-ranging poultry, peafowl don't like to get wet. The city of Rancho Palos Verdes in California advises that water is "one of the best-known deterrents" for the birds. Motion-activated sprinklers installed in the areas where they like to hang out might motivate them to move along instead. If you can't install such sprinklers, you can provide the water yourself by keeping a hose handy and spraying the birds with it whenever they appear. As long as the weather is warm, getting wet shouldn't actually hurt adult peacocks or peahens -- only their feelings. Avoid spraying the baby peachicks, which are more vulnerable.
Go to the Dogs
Peafowl are generally frightened of dogs, too. If you have an invisible fence, you can keep your dog in the yard to discourage visits. An alternative is to bring a leashed dog outdoors whenever you see the birds and firmly escort them from the property, keeping far enough back that Fido can't actually reach them. If you don't own a dog, you might want to try scattering coyote urine -- sometimes available at home improvement stores or feed mills -- around the edges of your lot instead. The stinky stuff may delude the birds into believing there is a wild and predacious canine nearby.
Rule the Roosts
Peafowl like to roost in trees at night, and are especially attracted to those with comfortably horizontal limbs. If you have such trees on your property, it's a good idea to block access to them, perhaps by tying bird scare balloons to the most inviting perches.
A former master gardener with a Bachelor of Arts in writing from Houghton College, Audrey Stallsmith has had three gardening-related mysteries published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House. Her articles or photos have also appeared in such publications as Birds & Blooms, Horticulture and Backwoods Home.