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He was blue, prone to screaming and last of his kind at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Kevin the peacock was euthanized Saturday

By Craig Sailor, The News Tribune
Published: January 9, 2024, 5:39pm

TACOMA — For decades, screams coming from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium have been an audible landmark for visitors to the Tacoma park and its nearby residents. Now, the cacophony of calls has gone silent.

Kevin the peacock, the last remaining member of the zoo’s peafowl flock, was euthanized Saturday after his health declined. The zoo announced Kevin’s death on its Facebook page Monday.

Kevin and those before him didn’t live in enclosures like other animals at the zoo, but staff there considered them part of their menagerie and provided them with medical care and food, said Sarah Oliver, the zoo’s deputy director.

Oliver called Kevin her good luck charm. He was the first resident she met when she pulled her vehicle into the employee parking lot for a 2019 job interview.

“When I got out, there was a peacock standing there to greet me,” she recalled.

Free-ranging

Peacocks, with their elongated tail feathers and obnoxious yelling, outshine their dowdy and quieter peahen partners.

Kevin and his kind didn’t confine themselves to the zoo or surrounding park. They often roamed through adjacent neighborhoods.

Facebook commenter Sarah Cummings White said peafowls often visited Franke Tobey Jones retirement community where her grandmother lived.

“It was so much fun for both residents and their guests,” she said. “Those visits made a retirement home feel like a castle.”

Kevin was a favorite of students from Tacoma Public School’s Science and Math Institute, Oliver said.

“He’s much beloved by the (zoo) staff as well as our guests,” she said.

The peafowls’ free-ranging nature wasn’t always in their best interest.

“They did like to forage around the grounds for discarded treats,” Oliver said. “It wasn’t good for their health.”

History

The first peafowls were thought to have arrived at the zoo as donations in 1990s, according to staff. The birds aren’t difficult to raise, but backyard poultry keepers can tire of their prodigious appetites and poop, their ability to decimate flower gardens and their all-day and sometimes middle-of-the-night screaming which can sound much like a woman yelling “Help!” at the top of her lungs.

Neighbors can sometimes complain.

The zoo said its total peafowl population has been as high as 35 birds. According to News Tribune archives, there were eight peacocks at the zoo in 1998.

“Our boys have been courting whatever comes across their path: ravens, ducks, chickens, a piece of trash, their own reflection in a window,” the zoo’s then associate veterinarian, Holly Reed, said.

Later that year, the zoo added a peafowl family to its annual Zoolights holiday light show.

The male birds, known for their large fan-like display of blue, green and gold feathers, need little prompting to go into full mate wooing mode during the late winter-early spring mating season. Peacocks are able to vibrate their fan of feathers, giving them a shimmering quality.

While often known to pick fights with their reflections in windows or hubcaps, the territorial birds like to keep a buffer of space from humans, even if they are relatively tame like Kevin.

“He really liked to show off his feathers,” Oliver said of Kevin. The zoo advised visitors to let the bird come to them rather than approach him.

Avian flu

The zoo has no plans to reintroduce peafowl into its bird population, Oliver said, mainly due to the birds’ high susceptibility to avian bird flu.

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The disease lead to the death or culling of 37 million chickens and turkeys in 2021 across the United States. It remains a threat to zoo avian populations.

In 2020, Kevin was moved to off-exhibit area to prevent infection. In 2022, the zoo did the same with its penguins, puffins and murres.

“For the moment, we will have to enjoy our warm memories of Kevin and the other peacocks who roamed our pathways and parking lots,” the zoo said. “Condolences to all who cared for and cared about Kevin. He will be missed.”

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