Farmers struggle with out of control peacock population

Farmers are struggling with a growing peacock population, worsened by a drop in predators and an abundance of crops the species like to eat.

According to New Zealand Birds Online, the Peafowl, more commonly known as Peacock has become feral through the neglect of birds originally kept in captivity for display.

The metallic blue and green peafowl is rampant in remote wooded and farmland areas of NZ especially in the upper North Island where they've been spotted in groups as large as 100.

The situation is made worse by continued efforts to control possum, ferret, stoat, and rat populations, The Guardian reports.

Unwanted species like stoats often eat peacock eggs from their nests on the ground which helps with peacock population control.

The Government's commitment to predator-free 2050, has led to a drop in the population of pests that eat peacock eggs, allowing for the population boom. 

Spokesperson for Federated Farmers Grant Adkins told The Guardian the number of peacocks in the Wanganui region has grown rapidly over the past 12 years.

"They weren't a problem at all when there were plenty of predators around but now they've got hardly any predators and plenty to eat."

Peacock hunter Blair Anderson has been culling peacocks for farmers for 17 years, he told The Project on Monday he's helping farmers right across the country. 

"I've been able to hunt them everywhere from as far east as Gisborne to as far North as Auckland, but I have got farmers wanting me up near Kerikeri as well as far south as Christchurch."

Ornithologist Tony Beauchamp says New Zealand farming practices often encourage larger populations of introduced birds. 

"In Northland, farmers have been planting maize for stock feed. But maize is absolutely dynamite for pest birds, they love moving into it."

On top of optimal living conditions, the bird species is difficult to shoot and catch.

Adkins says they're "pretty smart."

"Once they've learnt they're being shot at, you won't get within two or three hundred metres of them."

Anderson can vouch for this: "They are difficult to kill, they can pick you up easily in the daytime at 400 metres or more so they really get scared of you as a human." 

Despite this Anderson says he's been able to "take away about 800 to 1000" off farms every year. 

He puts his caught peacocks to good use, turning them into sausages which he says tastes delicious in some "bread and relish."

The feathers also go to "productive" activities such as korowai weaving, fish tying, and even movie sets.

While Anderson is an independent peacock culler, Adkins says authorities in the Wanganui region haven't shown interest in controlling the peacock population, their spread an issue he fears will begin to plague the rest of the county.