Blame Lucky Baldwin…Yes, the founder of Arcadia
Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, the colorful and rather ostentatious founder of Arcadia, was no stranger to disputes. When pushing for cityhood 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.
However, there is nothing the city can do – as it is wildlife. Part of the joy of living, so close to nature one could argue. However, not all residents agree and hope that the city or humane society does something to stop the proliferation and the destruction of peoples’ yards and property.
Today, hundreds of colorful peacocks, and the less flamboyant female peahens, roam the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Arcadia and surrounding neighborhoods. They are always looking for food.
Peafowl may seem an odd choice for a ranch, but they were actually quite handy to have around back then. Not only did they kill snakes and keep the snail population at bay.
Arboretum librarian Eubank says the Peacocks also help keep coyotes at bay. The strength of the birds is under-estimated and they are particularly protective of their young.
Back then, owning a peacock also was a status symbol. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was quite fashionable with the well-to-do who had land to put various animals on their property that they found colorful, attractive or unique.
After Baldwin’s death in 1909 at age 81, his daughter Anita sold off parcels of the ranch, eventually selling the last 1,300 acres in 1936 to Harry Chandler of the Los Angeles Times. In 1947, the state and the county of Los Angeles jointly purchased 111 acres to create an arboretum around the heart of the old ranch. Later the county purchased additional parcels, bringing the Arboretum’s total acreage to today’s 127.
The City of Arcadia has provided the information below for residents of Arcadia, complete with suggestions for plants that peacocks DON’T like.
Native to India, Burma, Java, Ceylon, Malaya and Congo, peafowl are relatives to pheasants. The difference is in the plumage. The term “peafowl” refers to the species with the males called peacocks; the females are called peahens and offspring under the age of one year are called peachicks.
Peafowl are usually found in small groups consisting of one male and several females. The male attracts the attention of peahens by fanning its elegant upper tail coverts (the feathers that cover the bird’s tail, not the actual tail) over it’s back. The males tail train will lengthen and get fuller over the first two to three years and will have reached consistent length and quality at five to six years old. The peacock will molt the tail in late summer signifying the end of the breeding season.
Peafowl reach breeding age at two years. Peahens usually lay clutches of three to 10 eggs in a season, starting in April. The incubation time for peachicks is 28 – 30 days.
Peafowl are incapable of long flights, however they are able to fly short distances such as into trees where they like to roost.
Peacocks are a wonderful part of living in Arcadia, however they can sometimes be disruptive and destructive. Below are some ways to deter peafowl from inhabiting your property:
1. When planning your garden, choose plants that peafowl find “unappetizing.” Please refer to the provided list of plants and flowers that peafowl like and dislike.
2. Peafowl do not like water. The intermittent use of sprinklers or a hose will act as a negative reinforcement for the birds.
3. Peafowl like to roost in trees that provide safety and protection. Trim or thin overhanging trees to deter peafowl from roosting in branches.
4. Peafowl like to eat young tender seedlings. Cover or fence off young plants until they are well-established and less attractive to the birds.
5. Peafowl are attracted to compost heaps because of the seeds and bugs. Don’t stop composting, however covering your compost bin will keep the peafowl out.
Peafowl are a beautiful addition to the landscape of Arcadia. They add beauty and grace to our suburban lifestyle, while being a truly unique and historical addition to the city we all love.
By taking a little extra effort and following these helpful tips, it is possible to live harmoniously with the peafowl, while still keeping your property one of distinction and high quality.
It is possible to maintain a beautiful garden while living with peafowl by replacing a few of the plants and flowers that peafowl find desirable with ones that they find distasteful. For example, substituting impatiens with azaleas still creates an attractive yard while deterring peafowl from inhabiting your property and destroying your landscaping.
Peafowl dislike these plants: Agapanthus, Azalea, Baby’s Breath, Bee Balm, Bird of Paradise, Blazing Star Liatris, Bouganvillea Butterfly Plant, Cactus, Camellia, Cannas, Clivia, Columbine, Coneflower, Ferns, Fuchsia, Gaillardia, Gardenia, Geranium. Giant Columbine, Gladiola, Gloriosa Daisy, Hen &Chicken, Hibiscus, Hardy Lavender, Hostas, Iris, Ivy, Lantana, Lavender, Marigold, Mint, Mum,Oleander, Painted Daisy, Periwinkle, Peonies, Phlox, Pink Lady, Plumbago, Poinsettia, Pyracantha, Rhododendron, Rose, Shasta Daisy, Snap Dragon, Sunburst Coreopsis, Weigela
Peafowl love these plants: Amaryllis, Begonia, Broccoli, Brussel Sprout, Cabbage, California Poppy, Cauliflower, Chive, Holly Berries, Impatiens, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Nasturtium, Pansy, Petunia, Primrose, Stock, Stock Cauliflower, Sweet Alyssum, Tomato, Water Stock
Young Spinach and any young plants
One of the biggest ways to keep peafowl off your property is to not feed them. They tend to return to areas where they can find food.
Peafowl love pet food, bird seed and bread. Feed your pets in the house or remove uneaten food soon after your pets have eaten.
Be a good neighbor and don’t feed the peafowl! The birds can survive quite well on the wild and domestic plants, seed and insects. Remember, you can be fined for feeding wild animals.
If the peacock is not injured or threatening your family, the Pasadena Humane Society and the City of Arcadia are unable to assist with the situation. Generally peafowl will not attack or harm adults, children or animals.
The best thing to do to deter peacocks from returning to your property is to remove food sources. Peacocks love birdseed, dog and cat food, compost, as well as a variety of plants and flowers. By removing pet food once it is consumed, covering your compost bins and exchanging plants that peacocks find desirable with plants that they find distasteful, you should be able to reduce the presence of peacocks on your property. See the inside of this brochure for more helpful hints.
Peacocks are a very familiar sight, not only at the Arboretum but in many neighbors’ yards thanks to Lucky Baldwin. Not everyone loves the feral birds. -Photos by Terry Miller