By now you’ve probably heard about that emotional support peacock at the Newark airport last week.
We’re not going to rehash that story — the attempted boarding and its fallout have been covered by everyone from local outlets to ones with global audiences. It even became a joke on SNL.
What we are going to address is those of you who are sitting at home thinking, “Maybe I’ll get a peacock as a pet.”
Just … no.
While keeping peacocks as pets is far from unheard of, there’s a long list of reasons why doing so in the city is a uniquely poor idea. Airlines refusing to board them is the least of those reasons.
Peafowl are native to tropical climates
There are three species of peacock, or peafowl, as they are correctly called (“peacock” refers to males only) — Congo, Javanese (sometimes called Green), and Indian. All three species are native to tropical climates. A quick check on the weather will tell you that New York City does not have a tropical climate. Not even close.
According to Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic of Longmont, Colorado — I had to go all the way to Colorado to find a vet with information about peafowl on their website — peafowl have a predisposition to frostbite which, as we should all know, is a painful condition that can lead to loss of limbs.
“Well I could just keep it inside and it’ll be fine,” you say. Sure, it’ll be fine… from frostbite. But peafowl are, at best, semi-domesticated. In the wild they are roaming animals, covering a great deal of ground daily in search of food and water. They roost in tree canopies at night. They are social, both roosting and foraging in small groups.
They love to roam all day
Roaming space and adequate tree cover are both decidedly sparse in urban environments. Your 400-square-foot loft is not an appropriate peafowl habitat. Keeping peafowl in such a constrained space can lead to obsessive (and obnoxious) vocalizations and aggression, according to experts.
Owning them may not be legal in NYC
Not only is keeping peafowl as pets in NYC pointedly unideal for the health and wellbeing of those animals, ownership of peafowl falls into a legal gray area in New York.
According to Article 161.02(b)(11) of the NYC Health Code, “All predatory or large birds, including, but not limited to, eagle, hawk, falcon, owl, vulture, condor, emu, rhea, and ostrich” are prohibited.
While peafowl are not explicitly mentioned, they are both large, measuring between two and eight feet, depending on species and sex, and predatory. Insects, reptiles, and amphibians make up part of their wild diet.
We reached out to the Bronx Zoo, home to famously free-roaming peacocks and peahens. A representative declined to comment, saying “we are not interested in being tied to that story.”
We also reached out to the Center for Avian & Exotic Medicine of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the nearest avian-specializing veterinary clinic, who had not responded by the time of this publication.
If you’re reading this from an acre or more of land in Hawaii, by all means get yourself a peacock — they are legal in that state and will be happy in the tropical climate.
If you’re reading this from a cramped one-bedroom in Bushwick, do both yourself and the peafowl a favor — get a hamster or a canary instead.