A rogue peacock has been spotted on the Blue Ridge Parkway, throughout Mount Mitchell State Park, and in a Black Mountain resident’s backyard. The showy bird has even crashed an engagement shoot.
But where did the mysterious, shimmering bird come from? We spoke with witnesses around town, as well as the National Park Service, to suss out what happened with this feathered runaway and the bird’s current whereabouts.
One of the first known sightings of the bird came from local photographer Halley Burleson about three weeks ago. According to Halley, the bird “showed up on the Blue Ridge Parkway just below Mt. Mitchell... it managed to survive and traveled several miles along the [Parkway] before being caught by a ranger.” She added that the bird was “sent to its new home with a very kind lady named Stephanie.”
Around the same time, wedding photographer Megan Gielow also had a run-in with the bird at Mount Mitchell State Park — in the middle of an engagement shoot. “It seemed like it lived on a farm or was someone’s pet. It wasn’t scared of us at all,” she shared.
Several other locals also shared sightings of the peacock, often while hiking. One Instagram user, @lifewithwinstomandluna, said they “tried for an hour on Friday to catch him” and that “he was determined to become a wild peacock.”
The peacock has also made at least one house call. According to Black Mountain resident Patricia Welker, it spent around seven hours in her backyard on May 24. “I heard an unusual bird call outside the window one morning and was totally shocked to look out and see this beautiful creature,” she shared.
“He stayed around my house for about seven hours, allowed me to get close to him, ate seeds, drank water, and rested in the shade. About 4:00 he decided to move on and headed north.” About an hour after the peacock left, Patricia heard coyotes “howling and yipping in the same direction.” She added “I was sure he was a goner... I feel like it is the same bird and it is amazing to me that he has evaded predators and survived.”
Ultimately, it’s unclear if all of these sightings have been the same peacock or multiple ones. Leesa Sutton Brandon, an external affairs specialist with the Blue Ridge Parkway, did confirm that this is a first for her department. “We regularly get calls for random wildlife, from pets to cows who have wandered off...but the peacock is a first,” she said. “There are no other reports of this in our books.”
When asked about the unknown “Stephanie” character who is rumored to have picked up the bird, Leesa said “we don’t know who Stephanie is but I hope it’s a good home.” While Leesa did share that a park ranger named Andy Branum went to Green Knob Overlook to look into the situation, she did not have a comment on what happened when the ranger arrived on the scene or what happened next.
Based on reports from AVLtoday readers, our best guess is that the peacock originated from the Bee Tree Reservoir area in Swannanoa. According to Leesa, the bird is definitely not native to Appalachia, and therefore, was most likely someone’s pet. If that was the case, this wouldn’t be the first example of a peacock defecting from its owner. The Sylva Herald reported back in 2017 about a trio of white peacocks escaping near Blanton Branch Road. And The Livingston Daily, based in Howell, MI, has also reported on five peacocks running amok and appearing on someone’s roof.
Instagram user @colleen.tings, who runs a creekside yurt rental in the area, claims that the bird belongs to her, writing that “They can travel up to 15 miles or more - that’s definitely ours.” This appears to check out, based on the peacock photos she has shared online (see here and here) — but she couldn’t be reached for further comment. The last detail Colleen shared with us was on Sunday, June 18, when she wrote in an Instagram comment “How do we find out where our bird is? Anyone know?”