When Kirsty Dyball moved into her dream home on the New South Wales Central Coast a year ago, the last thing she expected to find on her porch was a bright blue peacock.
While many in the community might find the sight charming, Ms Dyball said she was terrified.
“It sounds totally neurotic to anybody else, but when I’m driving around and they’re in the middle of the road just slowly wandering across, I can’t even look at them,” she said.
Her reaction stems from a deeply-ingrained childhood phobia of feathers, but has recently evolved into a safety concern.
“They just come out from the side of the road and then all of a sudden everyone’s got their brakes on,” she said.
“Personally, I think they’re very dangerous.”
Long love affair with colourful birds
Peafowl, as the males and females together are called, have been a point of pride in Ourimbah for decades, with the earliest memory of several strutting around on Peach Orchard Road being in the 1970s.
Currently the town is home to around 25 of the birds.
Long-time resident Julie Pallott said she suspected some were descendants of peafowl she was gifted six years ago.
She said a friend bought them from a breeder in western NSW and over the years the birds had bred and become cherished members of the community.
Daycare worker Kimberley Weeks said she was surprised when she first saw one hop into her backyard.
“I was a little bit scared at first,” she said, adding that over time, everyone grew to love them.
“It’s not a wild animal. These are beautiful birds. They’re not hurting anyone,” she said.
“We put a bucket of food out the front for them [and] the kids love sharing their breakfast.”
Widely considered a community pet in Ourimbah, the peafowl can often be seen in trees, atop cars, or feeding on bird seed on porches across the suburb.
There is even a Facebook page: Ourimbah Peacocks — Look After Our Wildlife, dedicated to their safety following a spate of road deaths.
“We’ve got some people who come through the community … they drive a little bit fast and the peacocks are quite slow,” Ms Weeks said.
“You can see them splattered on the road, it’s heartbreaking.
“We need crossings to slow down the traffic.”
Ms Weeks said residents would often nurse injured peafowl back to health and pay for any medical expenses.
Joanne Tinsley, who runs the Facebook page, took matters into her own hands and paid for signs encouraging drivers to proceed with caution.
But she said the amateur signs were not working, with another death as recently as two weeks ago.
Central Coast Mayor Jane Smith noted there were traffic calming devices in the area, but admitted more could be done.
“It’s a matter of always being mindful of what’s going on around you when you are driving, but signage may be an appropriate solution,” she said.
Feathers ruffled by narcissistic birds
Ms Dyball is passionate about the birds too, just not in the same way as others in her community.
“If you don’t love them and [don’t] think they’re majestic, then they’re quite annoying,” she said.
She said her husband had complained to the local council about the birds — but he is not the only one.
In a Facebook post, Ourimbah resident Tara Kingman Williams wrote that the birds could be a pest.
“They fly onto my roof (thankfully not my car) and one of the males seems determined to try to show off to my chickens and is constantly coming over and wooing them,” she said.
“But they are also beautiful. My kids adore them and I think we are very lucky to share a suburb with them.”
Peacocks are notoriously narcissistic and are often found on verandahs and cars, staring at reflections of themselves in the windows.
During mating season, colourful tail feathers are little consolation to residents irritated by the blaring cries of peacocks trying to attract the attention of peahens.
No plans by council to manage birds
Ms Pallott said she felt guilty she may have caused problems by introducing some of the peafowl into the community.
Even the most understanding residents admitted they could see the animals becoming a greater issue in the future.
“The community are trying to contain them [but] I can see them overpopulating,” Ms Weeks said.
Mayor Smith said she had always assumed peafowl were an admired feature of the community, and said council was not currently considering any kind of population management.