Pete the peacock flew the coop on his first night in Kingsbrae Garden, on the southern shores of New Brunswick. That was about two months ago — and it's been a wild goose chase ever since.
The fowl arrived June 16 in the town of Saint Andrews and was placed in quarantine before the one-year-old peacock could be introduced to others.
"The following morning — Saturday morning — the cage was empty," said Brad Henderson, managing director of Kingsbrae Garden, a public garden that describes itself on its website as a "multi-award-winning, 27-acre horticultural masterpiece."
Staff at the garden "thought the worst," Henderson said Monday in an interview, because the area has a fox on the loose. But before garden authorities could even get the word out about the bird on the lam, they began getting calls about a peacock in the neighbourhood.
"It gave us hope that the peacock has survived, but unfortunately, for the last month we haven't heard a single thing. No one has seen a peacock. No one's reporting a peacock," Henderson said.
"So, we don't know what to think anymore."
A little digging by garden staff revealed a hole by Pete's enclosure that was burrowed from the outside — meaning something could have got in. But other than a few stray feathers, there was nothing "overly concerning" — like blood — so it's possible that the bird is alive, Henderson said.
"There is like a branch and stuff that the peacock could get up on," he said. "So, what we were hoping is that indeed a fox did dig in, but the peacock jumped up where the fox couldn't get him and then the fox left. The bird just went out the same hole."
Garden authorities put out a note on Facebook on June 21 asking people to contact them if they see a peacock.
"If you spot a random peacock in or around town, chances are it’s ours," the post said. "We have a brand new one that doesn’t know where 'home' is. Please reach out if you see it!"
About two weeks after Pete went missing, a peacock was seen hanging out in a tree in Fredericton, about an hour-and-a-half drive away from Saint Andrews. Garden authorities checked out the photo and determined by the head feathers that it wasn't Pete.
"I don't know what the chances of having two peacocks roaming around freely in New Brunswick are, but that's what happened to us," Henderson said with a laugh.
Nick Lund, a network manager for Maine Audubon, described peacocks — India's official bird — as being "pretty hardy."
The Indian peafowl, as they are officially known, are regular escapees or wanderers from places where they are kept domestically or as pets, he said in an email.
"They aren't likely to fly very far and prefer to walk. It's unlikely that the bird has gone very far, as they don't typically migrate. In most places — like this garden, I suspect — they're often not caged or restrained because they don't tend to wander," Lund said.
"The bird will be fine outside until the winter."
The garden has two other peacocks and three peahens in residence. About six years ago, a peacock named Nelson bolted from the property and landed in a neighbourhood golf course.
"The hard part is catching them, right?" Henderson said. "They're not the easiest thing to catch. They're pretty quick — pretty smart. But we were able to eventually catch him."
Since then, he said garden staff have spent more time with Nelson, letting him know that food is easily available with them. The bird hasn't left since.
Henderson said the peacocks' wings are not clipped and the birds are free to roam. Usually, they choose to stay in the garden because it's relatively safe — except for the pesky fox. The garden is also home to ducks and alpacas, all of which are now put safely away in enclosures every night so they don't become fox food.
"I call him a nuisance," he said of the fox. "We hope he moves along his way and leaves the garden, or you know, goes back out into the woods into the countryside."
Since his escape, Pete has managed to evade cameras and attention — although there have been a number of false alarms.
"Somebody called us to say that they had seen the peacock. When we went, it was a turkey. A wild turkey," he said.
"And someone said they heard it in their backyard and when we went to their backyard, it was a frog."
Henderson is hopeful Pete is flourishing wherever he is and getting to eat plenty of his favourite berries, leaves and insects.
"He could literally be anywhere in the entire province," he said. "Saint Andrews is on the coast of Maine — so maybe even internationally."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 30, 2022.