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Never mind a wild goose chase...
A peacock on the roof in Standish
One of the Standish peacocks on a roof
Last updated: 16 January 2005 1437 GMT
line BBC Gloucestershire's Rupert Upshon went to Standish to watch a vet catch three of the resident peacocks - an easy task, or so he thought!

Audio Listen to Rupert Upshon's peacock hunt at Standish

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Prinknash Abbey

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Turn up at the former hospital in Standish, watch a vet catch three peacocks and return to BBC Gloucestershire - an easy day, I thought. How wrong I was!

BBC Gloucestershire's Rupert Upshon

The hospital in Standish, which closed towards the end of December 2004, is home to three peacocks who need to be moved to their new home at Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire.

The hospital itself is set in 32 acres of ground with many trees, shrubs and flower beds - easy terrain for the birds to hide themselves in, and hide they did.

Peacock hunt

Wendolyn Dean, who's one of the last members of staff to be transferred from Standish, took me to find them. All we needed now was a peacock... something which was already proving a very difficult task indeed. Wendolyn revealed:

"They do know that something's going on. It was exactly the same last time when we tried to catch them. They just seem to know. I don't know why - animals are very good like that aren't they?"

Peacock on the roof

Originally there were seven peacocks but four have already been transferred to Prinknash where there's a healthy population already. Wendolyn believes it's a real shame that they have to leave Standish but it's a necessary move for the birds' welfare, she says:

"The peacocks could've stayed if we'd had a decision on what was going to happen with the site.

But as the site is now going to be vacant for we don't know how long, we obviously can't keep the birds here."

Favourites of the patients

The peacocks were first brought to Standish in the 1970s by the hospital's League of Friends. For years they've been favourites of the patients, who used to buy food for them from the hospital trolleys.

Wendolyn with a captured peacock

Unfortunately for us the Standish peacocks were still proving to be extremely difficult to track down.

Finally, after using walkie-talkies to locate the three peacocks, specialist bird vet Neil Forbes was brought in to help capture them. It turns out that peacocks are a bit of a law unto themselves as far as Neil is concerned. He explained:

"Peacocks are a notorious problem. We get calls from all around the country on a regular basis because they make an awful lot of noise - they tend to get on roofs early in the morning and make a lot of noise, often disturbing the neighbours.

They also tend to roam freely from wherever they're living and they're not easy to control. They won't come inside for food so you can't medicate their food - you basically have to train them to take some sort of titbit that has been laced with sedative so that you can get hold of them."

Difficult to catch

Wendolyn with one of the captured peacocks

Even with the vet on hand, the birds still proved difficult to catch. Every time the vet got within ten metres of one of the birds, they scarpered. It was obviously time for plan B and the vet stepped forward with his secret weapon - raisins laced with sedative.

Just when it looked like hope of capturing the birds was fading, one of the peacocks fell for the bait and was caught. And after a minor operation to clip the feathers on one wing of the bird - so he couldn't return to Standish from his new home at Prinknash - it was into the van with him.

Still on the loose...

However, after another two hours only the one male peacock had been caught and even the vet reckoned the birds knew what was going on. He said:

"Because there's a lot change and a lot of noise they're not feeling confident in their surroundings and, hence, they're a lot more flighty. Unless we can get close to them it becomes very difficult [to capture them]."

As I left, the vet was still busy trying to capture the two remaining birds. It seems they're determined to remain at Standish but for how long is anyone's guess, given the elusive nature of these particular birds.

Listen to Rupert's peacock hunt

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2005 Archive
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Check out the 2004 Features archive for past stories from the website

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