It seems like everyone in the Azalea Heights neighborhood of McKinleyville, California had a different name for the peacock that visited their homes almost every day. One local family called him ‘Peony.’ The residents of the Azalea Estates mobile home community called him ‘Mr. P.’ And Melissa and Mike Glass, who gave the bird his own enclosure on their property, called him Azul.
“He literally showed up out of the blue one day,” Melissa told the Los Angeles Times. “He’s just been part of our life ever since.” Or he was part of their lives, because whatever he was called —Peony, Mr. P, or Azul—he’ll have to be referred to in the past tense. Last week, an elderly Azalea Estates resident found the peacock in her yard, dead from a gunshot wound to its brightly feathered chest.
The bird’s death clearly wasn’t accidental—not unless another peacock grew a set of thumbs and carelessly handled a .22—but it was also telegraphed by a threatening-sounding Craigslist ad from a local man who offered a financial payout to anyone who could help him “eliminate this bird.”
After the peacock’s body was found, Kelsey Radant remembered seeing the upsetting Craigslist post several weeks earlier. She had sent screenshots of the ad to her dad, who frequently gave the bird a breakfast-time slice of sourdough bread. “He feels really responsible, like he should have done more when [we saw the ad]—called the sheriff then,” she told Lost Coast Outpost. “We didn’t think anybody would do it, but we were wrong.”
The now-deleted Craigslist post is 100 percent clear in its intention. “The job is simple… get rid of a wild peacock that is disrupting our lives,” it read, according to Lost Coast Outpost. “Locating the bird is easy as it roosts in the trees near my house every evening about 8-8:30 p.m [...] please contact me so we can form a strategy to eliminate this bird, and also to agree on how much you will be compensated.”
The poster wrote that the peacock’s call had been an unwanted alarm clock for several months, waking him up “every morning at 5-5:30 a.m. and continues calling for about three hours.” He said he’d tried ear plugs and putting a pillow over his head, but nothing worked (and clearly there were zero other options on the continuum between ‘wearing earplugs’ and ‘murdering a bougie-ass chicken.’)
Melissa and Mike Glass looked at screenshots of the ad after their beloved bird was killed—Mike was given the grim task of removing its blood-soaked body from his neighbor’s yard—and they noticed that whoever wrote the listing had included a Google Maps link at the bottom. They also realized that they knew exactly who lived in the house designated on the map, because he’d previously asked them about ushering the peacock out of the neighborhood. (“We all said no,” Melissa said.)
He’d also approached other people in the neighborhood, both in person and by email, to ask them about relocating the bird to some other street, or some other subdivision. He told them that he was an animal lover—VICE discovered that he once signed an open letter to Ken Salazar, then-Secretary of the Interior, advocating for increased environmental protections for polar bears—but his affinities might be limited to the kind of animals that live 2,300 miles away.
The Lost Coast Outpost reached out to the man, and he “asked [the outlet] to confirm that the peacock was indeed dead” and then declined to answer questions about the Craigslist ad, or about the bird. “If a crime has been committed then I’m consulting an attorney,” he said. “I believe that would be prudent.”
No one seems to have determined whether a crime was committed or not, nor have they untangled what the Craigslist poster’s role was. VICE has reached out to the California Department of Fish & Wildlife about the situation but, as of this writing, we have not received a response.
A spokesperson for the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed to VICE that the agency is investigating the incident. “A potential suspect has been identified by deputies and a search warrant was served at a residence on Hewitt Road in relation to the investigation,” a statement from the Sheriff’s Office read. “No arrests have been made at this time. The crimes currently being investigated are Animal Cruelty and Conspiracy to Commit a Crime.”
Mike and Melissa Glass have considered the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit, while other neighbors are concerned what the man might do if, say, someone’s barking dog wakes this guy up next time. “Someone should think about moving something in [that is] truly annoying to this person,” someone recommended on the r/Humboldt subreddit. “Aggressive geese come to mind, but I'm sure there are other things.”
Maybe leave the birds out of it, yeah?