He was curious, but when I grabbed my camera to follow him, he strolled back into the trees, moving slowly enough to show me that he didn't see me as a danger, but fast enough to let me know that I'm not his friend either.
A week later when Ronan, Griffin and Sarah left for home, he returned, keeping his distance from the house. I watched him eat the seeds from the grass which was now waist high in places. He would grab the stalk at the bottom and run the stem through his beak until he reached the seeds. Then he'd swallow these and move quickly on to the next bunch.
Each day he come closer and closer to the house, and I'd go outside and sit on the stucco wall and talk to him even though he was often behind me. I had left him a trail of bread crumbs from the shed to where I was sitting, and he seemed to be listening to me as I chatted about the bobcats and mountain lions, and bears in the forest and asked him if he had a mate and where she was. I decided that I'd let him eat out of my had if he come close enough when suddenly he put his long neck straight up and ran away. "Wait," I said. "I have more for you," but he had spotted Bootsie, the neighbors cat which sometimes crawls under our shed.
I approached the crouching kitty and said, "Bad cat. Leave the bird alone." I knew that I could give the peacock some extra time to get away by scratching her head and neck. I even tore the remaining bread crusts into bits and fed them to the kitty.
The peacock did stand his ground though. I had noticed his huge claws and the thorn on the back of his legs. that resembles the spur that roosters have to use in a fight. When he left it was in a dignified stroll, as if to say that I wasn't rescuing him; he could take care of himself and had faced worse enemies than a housecat.
Aside from him eating seeds, I wondered what else he ate. As I was complaining to a neighbor about the deer earing the plants in front of my house, she suggested that it might be the peacock. So, I covered the remaining flowers with netting and began to feed him lettuce leaves and strawberry tops and tomato bits. I didn't really want to have him depend on my meals because when I returned to California, he would again be wild, but I enjoyed doing it.
When I had friends over for dinner on the front porch, he hung around waiting for us to throw him food. The last night that they were visiting, we ate by candlelight in the sunroom, which is composed of long windows and glass doors on three sides. As I got up from the table to get something and turned my back to the outside, he flew at the window twice with his claws spread. It was dark, and I don't know what caused him to be upset. We really didn't know that he was even outside watching us. I think that he wanted to be included in the gathering. When they left, Prince pecked at the red polish on my friend's toes. I assume that he thought that they were something delicious to eat. Then, I had to pitch grapes into the grass next to the driveway in order to get him off of the road so their car could leave.
He rewarded by donations of food by leaving me soft swirls of poop all over my patio and pool deck. They spiraled upward like dark brown ice cream servings. I had to be careful whenever I stepped outside that I didn't land in one because he had taken to searching throught the glass doors to locate me when I was inside the house, and these deposits landed wherever he had been waiting. He was also drinking from the swimming pool and hunkering down on the warm cement near the back doors in the evening before retreating to the forest for safety at night, so there were piles everywhere.
As a child growing up near the San Diego Zoo, I had seen many peacocks. They ran wild there, and their cries were loud and constant. Someone told me that they could be heard two miles away. This peacock, however, was quiet and alone. As I watched him preen, I noticed that his tail was scraggly, and he had some rust colored feathers just slightly exposed on his right side. I'd never seen that color feather before on a peacock, and I wondered if he weren't sick. There are coyotes and raccoons in the forest behind our house, and I'm sure that he looked like a good meal to them no matter his condition. I can picture them snapping at his tail feathers as he flies, just in time, into a nearby tree to roost for the night.
I started calling him Price because I loved the small crown of black feathers that formed a crest on his head, and I knew that he was not old enough to a a king because his tail was lacking enough feathers to drag on the ground such as older peacocks have. His chest and body and neck were the most amazing iridescent blue-green color; his tail had those wonderful feathers that look if they have blue eyes at the tip. He was so handsome that I wondered why there wasn't also a female peacock to keep him company.
And I noted his similarity to our wild turkeys that must have been jealous of his beauty. He has the same body shape, and he moves in the same way, sticking his S-shaped neck out as he steps forward seeming to push himself along. However, he is beautifully colored, and he has his crown and his tail of eyes, which he did not open for me because he had no need to threaten me with it and wave it inward as I'd seen the male turkeys do with their display.
I worried about him when he didn't appear for a day, and I'd step outside, facing the forest, and do my best imitation of a peacock call, as I remembered hearing it at the zoo. It is something between the cry of a crow and the wail of a baby. He would appear soon after, and I'd be happy that nothing had happened to him. I did wonder where he came from. Sometimes peacocks escape from zoos and arboretums, but we had neither out in the country. The only explanation that I could think of was that he was the great-great-great grandbird of some peacocks that neighbors kept on a nearby farm. They were, we later found out, growing marijuana, and used bull mastiffs as guard dogs and peacocks to warn them about intruders. I had spotted one of their peacocks at the top of our south field one morning years ago when I was having breakfast and looked out the window. No one would believe me. They tried to tell me that it must have been a turkey, but I know a peacock when I see one. Would it be possible for peacocks to breed in the forest and still be around several generations later?
I also worried what would become of him when we had to return home after our vacation at the farm. After I left, my god-daughter looked on the Internet and found a ranch about twenty miles away. They already had 30 peacocks, and they were willing to come and get Prince if she could capture him and put him into a dog carrier cage before they got there. So, that's what she did.
And that's where my beautiful prince is now, safe among friends that are almost as beautiful as he is.