Drought brings strange bird to Independence backyard


Thirsty peacock visits Julie Larson’s back yard in Independence.

This is one I had to see to believe.

I knew birds were drought stressed when I turned my sprinkler on at the Huttner Weather Lab Thursday and birds immediately started flocking from the trees for a drink. But I never saw a bird the like one above. All Things Considered producer Jeff Jones explains below. Thanks to MPR weather spy Julie Larson for the proof!


At first, we didn’t believe Julie Larson when she responded to our All Things Considered text message query about the effect of the dry weather in our listeners’ back yards. Here’s what she wrote: A peacock has surfaced in our yard and drinks from our bird bath!

I called her back and she insisted the sighting was for real. Could it be a wild turkey? No. If you’ve ever heard a peacock squawk, you’d know it’s the real thing, she said. To further prove it, she sent us these photos of the colorful visitor — which she has named Waldo (“So I can ask the kids, ‘Where’s Waldo?'”, she says).

The Larsons live in a wooded area in Independence, MN — about 25 miles west of Minneapolis. Julie says Waldo the Peacock visits frequently to drink from the bath and get some seeds at the Larson bird feeder. “He comes for three squares a day,” she says. Just as songbirds appear after a lawn sprinkler runs, Julie suspects the dry weather is making it hard for Waldo to find water elsewhere. She’s had coyotes in her yard, too, and she hopes (for Waldo’s sake) they don’t decide to visit at the same time.

I called our good friend and top-flight bird expert Carrol Henderson from the DNR, who’s heard it all when it comes to Minnesota bird sightings. He confirmed that Minnesota is not along the typical peacock migration path (the birds are only native to South Asia and central Africa). He suspects Waldo escaped from a nearby hobby farm. Julie Larson says she knows of no such farms near her community. Until someone comes around to claim him — or until we finally get some rain — she’ll keep filling up the bird bath so Waldo can beat the heat.


Good peacock info: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/peacock.html

Carrol’s Web site: http://www.hendersonbirding.com/

Peacock YouTube video (NOT from Julie Larson), including sound: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MhZPqHeEAQ

Jeff Jones

Producer, “All Things Considered”

Minnesota Public Radio



  • Nancy Mastenbrook

    Good Lord! What next? Only in Minnesota would people be feeding a peacock named Waldo “3 squares a day” and worring about the local coyotes.

  • Julie Larson

    I have two minor corrections to the story. First, Waldo prefers hanging in the front yard where the neighbors and walkers and bikers can enjoy watching his (her?) antics. Second, we do have hobby farms around, but I checked with city hall and local police and no one that they know of has been raising peacocks lately. We were told that Waldo would be almost impossible to catch even if his “owner” could be located.

    For anyone interested, Waldo’s latest move was flying (yep, we saw him do it) to the peak of our house, and then into an old tree to roost for the night. If only the squawking wasn’t so loud in the middle of the night!

  • Brian Horn

    Hmm… The only place where peacocks roam with complete freedom is the Minnesota Zoo. They made parking there a mess last year. But why would one venture away from there?

  • Sharon Snyder


    I’ve never seen peacocks at the Minnesota Zoo. Perhaps you were thinking of the Como Zoo which does have peacocks?


  • Ann

    I live in that neighborhood and when I first got a glimpse I thought it must be a wild turkey that strayed away from the wild turkey group we have living out here.But every morning around 5AM there is this Loud strange noise & finally he/she came into MY yard & patios! I knew if I didn’t get a photo-no one would believe me!I called my neighbor & she saw it too!Found out it stayed mostly next door.It must belong to someone.


  • Julie Larson

    Guess what? Waldo’s real owners happened to read about him in the local police report and they paid us a visit today. They will be attempting to catch “Pedro” and bring him home. He traveled about 2 miles and crossed a major highway in his adventure. They haven’t seen him yet to be sure it’s the same guy, but the description of his unique behaviors match up well. Believe it or not, we will miss him. I’ve even adjusted to his loud squawking in the night, similar to how one living next to a train tracks eventually grows used to the sound. But I’m sure glad he will be reunited with his original family.