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Published: Wednesday, 7/11/2001

Freedom ends for 2 fugitive peacocks

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The last of two peacocks missing since at least June 29 trotted unwittingly yesterday into the gym at St. Anthony Villa, about 11/2 miles west of the cemetery on West Central Avenue, only to have a villa staff member slam the door shut.

Still missing and given up for lost is a peahen, not seen since her male cohorts disappeared. The cemetery reported on June 29 that the peafowl trio had escaped.

The birds - new to the cemetery six weeks ago - were last seen at Woodlawn on June 25, Angela Waller, director of community and owner relations, said.

The report prompted an outpouring of peacock sightings, although no one reported seeing the peahen, which is chocolate-milk brown and does not have the male's brilliant color or distinctive train feathers, Mrs. Waller said.

“I've received over 200 phone calls” from people who said they saw the birds, Mrs. Waller said. Many were from within two miles of the cemetery.

“We could tell [the calls were legitimate] because ... the birds stayed in the neighborhood,” she said. “We got calls from Monroe and Pemberville. We knew, no way, those were not the same birds.”

Mrs. Waller said the birds survived on the lam by eating dog food and bird seed.

Peacocks, which weigh about 30 pounds, typically feed at dawn and dusk when residents most often noticed them. They were spotted many times in backyards.

Residents often called the cemetery when they saw the birds eating from pet bowls and feeders. But cemetery staff usually had not arrived for work or had left for the day.

When cemetery workers did go out, the birds proved to be elusive. David Welch, a grounds supervisor, answered a call and caught one of the birds Monday behind a home near Douglas Road and Sylvania Avenue.

He eventually cornered the bird in a shed.

Then yesterday, Kris Kapela, executive director of St. Anthony Villa, was in the dining area of the substance abuse treatment facility, speaking to a staff member. “Mid-conversation, I said to her, `Is that a peacock out there?' I was stunned,” Ms. Kapela said. “She thought I had lost my mind.”

But they watched the peacock walk along the side of the building, do a dance on top of a van in the parking lot, and run into the gym, where it was locked inside.

Blade staff writer Jack Baessler contributed to this report.



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