Remember when you were in eighth grade and you were forced to read The Catcher in the Rye? Remember when Holden asks that taxi driver where all the ducks in Central Park go in the winter? Remember how you thought that was somehow a metaphor for imminent escape from your acne-ridden 13-year-old existence? Yeah, we do too.
We can only imagine that resident Bwog Zoologist David Berke was thinking along the same lines when, on a stroll past St. John the Divine, and he wondered out loud where the Cathedral’s most famous creatures, its peacocks, go when it gets cold out. Unable to procure an answer and eventually discovering that many Columbians don’t even know about the existence of the peacocks at the Cathedral in the first place, we decided to investigate.
The peacocks have been around since 1973, when they were presented as a gift from the Philadelphia Zoo, who had a few too many peachicks in that year’s crop, to the Cathedral’s then-dean, James Parks Morton.
We strolled around the Cathedral grounds for a bit until we found a security guard who informed us that he didn’t believe that there is a special wintertime procedure for dealing with peacocks but that “they have their own house out back.” We followed the haunting squawks and found a peacock pen, much like what we imagine chicken coops look like, in a section of the Cathedral’s parking lot. One white peacock was found resting in his “house” and a second, colorful tail feathers raised, walked back and forth in front of the coop before heading next door to the Cathedral’s small Biblical garden.
The peacock palace is large, but certainly would not be able to keep the birds warm in the winter. The rest of the Cathedral staff couldn’t answer our query, so we perused morningside-heights.net, which informed us that the peacocks used to sleep on heat pipes in the garage, and now spend their time in a heated cage in that same garage during the wintry months, which has not been substantiated by the Cathedral’s actual employees.
Still, pay the peacocks a visit while you still can: several of the Cathedral’s birds have been killed already, one by a dog, and another by an unknown and presumably very hungry peacock-thief during Thanksgiving weekend a few years ago.