Bonnie Aldridge was out in the back working on her garden when she heard the clumsy crashes. She looked up and there they were—a pair of peacocks sitting on her fence and staring intently at her.
An ornithologist might want to step in right here and correct us. These weren't peacocks, but pea hens, the female of the species with the green and turquoise necks, but not the NBC tailfeathers. Or if you want to be even more correct, you can call them peafowl.
Regardless, they were colorful characters and became entertainers for the whole neighborhood around her Hanover Street home in the neighborhood two blocks behind the new Staff of Life and two blocks west of Seabright Avenue, just by the Gault Library.
"It was just a magical delight," says Aldridge, 59, an early childhood education teacher at Cabrillo College who has lived in the neighborhood for a decade and now wonders where the birds have gone.
"They were incredible here."
The pair, which she named Lolo and Lizzy, didn't act much like wild animals. Lolo, the bigger one, would knock on the sliding-glass door when she wanted some dogfood or popcorn, treats both birds favored.
One time, she just pushed open the door and walked in demanding her share and pushing aside Aldridge's cat Cheddar and her dog, Annie, a shih tzu. There became something of a pecking order around the house, if you will. The birds would make a loud noise, shaking their stumpy little tails and rolling out their feathers to scare the cat and grab its food.
When the dog came out, the birds would back down, strut away and let it eat.
The birds flew, clumsily, over an area of a few blocks. They liked rooftops and were spotted June 20 on the roof of Mackenzies Chocolates at 1492 Soquel Ave., according to a local newspaper.
Animal control was called but did nothing, saying the birds weren't injured.
They plopped down many times on Aldridge's roof. They would tap at the skylight and play with a duster she held up there. They went to bed with the sun, sleeping in a tree in Aldridge's backyard, and they woke up between 4:15 and 6 a.m.
She knew by the loud plops or the honking sound they seemed to have picked up from some geese.
Plenty of experts stopped in to see the birds. Some said they were juvenile males; others said they were females.
"It was about an even split," said Aldridge. "The same percentage as with experts in other fields."
Kids went to visit, fascinated. If they stood still in the driveway, Lolo would eat popcorn out of their hands. It brought the neighborhood together. People shared stories about the birds. They brought relatives and kids to see them. Aldridge's house became a local landmark.
The birds had their quirks. They would answer to their names. They ate all of the green beans, sweet peas and Romaine lettuce. They ignored all the other types of lettuce. They liked dogfood more than catfood.
Then one day in late June, they were gone. It was shortly after a neighbor complained about the noise they made in the daytime when she had to sleep, but that was probably coincidence, says Aldridge.
It's a mystery for the whole neighborhood. Maybe the wild birds went back to being wild. Maybe they found another household. Maybe—well, let's not go there.
"I just wonder where they are. Maybe someone will see this and know."
If you have seen the missing peacocks, pea hens or peafowl, drop us a comment here.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of pictures here to help you identify them.