'We'll not allow our peacocks to be killed' pledge as Doncaster village split in row over birds

To some, they are a beautiful and quirky attraction to a picturesque Doncaster village.

Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 5:35 pm

To others, they are a nuisance that scratch their cars, disturb the peace, and dig up their gardens.

And the result of this split in opinion? A colony of peacocks and peahens in Finningley is now at the centre of a row which some residents say has sparked the same strength of feeling as the Brexit debate.

Community leaders are trying to decide what to do about the birds, who live in the area around the village duckpond. And it could mean an end to the peacocks in the village, with options ranging from getting rid of them altogether to leaving then to continue to breed.

One of several Peacocks that live around Finningley Duck Pond. Picture: NDFP-05-10-19-Peacocks-1

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Strong feelings on both sides have led Finningley Parish Council to commission a report on the issue because the number of birds is thought to have more than tripled in just a few years.

Last month, consultant ecologist Natasha Estrada, of Estrada Ecology, wrote a report for the parish council looking at the issue, which it has now published, which revealed there were 22 Indian peafowl in the village, eight adult males, seven adult females and seven young.

She ran a survey, with questionnaires sent to residents, with 54 people getting back to her. It found 37 in favour of keeping the peafowl 13 against keeping them and four were neutral, with no strong

opposition to the population but suggesting population monitoring or a reduction in numbers may be appropriate

Those who wanted to remove the birds from the village said raised concerns over noise, droppings, garden damage to lawns and vegetation, and damage to cars and property.

Two people complained the peacocks were particularly attracted to dark coloured cars in which they can see their reflection.

Concerns were also raised that they caused a road hazard.

But those who wanted to keep them said the peafowl had lived in the village a long time and brought character to the village. Some said they act as a natural traffic calmer particularly on Wroot Road

and Doncaster Road. And 85 per cent said the birds had not damaged any of their property.

The report suggests four options for the village – doing nothing, removing all the peacocks and peahens, reducing the population of the birds, or removing the trees where they roost.

It warns that if they do nothing, the population could rise further.

If the council wants to remove the whole population, the report suggests they are taken away to another site somewhere else, where they can be contained. Reducing the population could involve taking some of the birds or eggs away.

But there are concerns among residents – and petitions have been circulating around the village.

One petition to keep the birds has been taken from door to door, while another has been set up online.

Online petition creator Darren Storrs claimed in his petition that the birds would have to be slaughtered unless an owner came forward to look after them. His petition had nearly 300 names on it at the start of this week.

But Finningley Parish Council chairman Richard Johnson said there was no way the birds would be killed. He said: “The Parish Council has never ever considered that. It is not stated as an option in the report.”

But he said a decision on what to do would be made at the council’s meeting on meeting on October 15.

He said the parish council decided to commission the Estrada survey after it agreed that it would like an informed report on the peafowl, because the population had increased from around six in 2013 to the present, previously undetermined number.

He said: “We approached the Doncaster Council Ecology team who recommended three local ecologists. We chose Estrada because they agreed to include consutlation with residents in their survey.”

He confirmed the parish council was aware of the petition, and had pointed out that although opinion on the matter might be widespread, it was the residents of the village who the council would take note of.

He added: “The options will be discussed at our meeting on October 15 and as always our decision will be recorded in the minutes.”

Familiar sight

Kevin Smallman has lived in Finningley for 30 years.

Like many others in the village, he is used to the sight of the village’s peacocks walking the streets.

He said: “There used to be a handful of of peacocks around the pond area. But they’ve spread further out into the village. They’re not causing me any problems, but I know people have complained that they stand on cars, go into people’s gardens and they’re really loud. They make a big screech. People have said they’ve had their cars damaged.

“They’re not bothering me, but I can understand how people could get fed up with them. They’re not easily scared – they don’t run away.

Married couple Adam and Rachel Webb have divided views on the birds.

Adam said: “I want them to go, but my wife wants them to stay. They have increased in numbers and they sit on cars and scratch them. I like them in the village if they stay around the pond. It’s just the damage that is a worry.

Rachel said: “I’ve lived in Finningley for 30 years, and the peacocks are part of the village. They have just caused a bit of scratching of the cars. I think it’s important that they stay.

“It would be strange without them in the village. I love wildlife and people can just shoo them away. They kids love them too.”

Sheila and Bob Smith, from Hatfield, visit Finningley frequently to visit their daughter and her family.

Sheila said: “The family love them – they think it is part of the village. I like to see them, and so do the kids. I think they’re part of the village.

Bob added: “I feel the same way. I think it is something different that makes the village stand out. We went to an island near Dubronik once where they advertise their peacocks to encourage visitors.

Resident John Tomlinson thought feelings rivalled Brexit on the issue. He said he understood the concerns, and felt the numbers could keep rising if nothing is done.

He said: “For many years there have only been four or five, possibly six, peafowl resident in the village and it is only over the last four years that the numbers have increased to an estimated 22 comprising of seven adult males eight adult females and seven juveniles.

“Whilst some residents love these creatures, others find them a nuisance as they attack and scratch cars, make a terrible row and crap all over the place, this has got worse as the numbers have increased and as the numbers have increased the complaints have been generated.

“Following complaints, the parish council commissioned a specialist report into the whole aspect of the peafowl with the aim of getting an expert view to see if they could manage the future of the peafowl.

“At no time has anyone on the parish council said that they should be slaughtered or rehoused – the only intention is to work out what is a sustainable number and how to manage them into the future.

“The top and bottom of this matter, like it or not the numbers of these creatures needs to be humanely managed otherwise this village will have a big problem with them in years to come.”