APRIL FOOLS — “I hear a woman screaming, ‘Help!’”
“My neighbor’s cat must be in heat. It’s keeping me awake.”
“It sounds like Elmo is being mugged outside my house.”
These are a few of the descriptions callers gave Longboat Key police last week when they reported a strange sound coming from the Longbeach Village.
Police figured the sounds could only mean one thing: peacock-mating season.
They were only half right.
Police were shocked to discover a flock of squawking birds gliding gracefully through a swimming pool.
Like mute swans, they were white with long, S-shaped necks.
Like peacocks, they had long plumage — but they definitely weren’t mute.
The resident confirmed he successfully mated a Bay Isles swan with a Village peacock — to create the “sweacock” hybrid.
The man said “designer dog” hybrids, such as Schnoodles and Maltipoos he sees walking the Key each day, inspired him. He decided to attempt a bird hybrid after trying unsuccessfully for six years to breed “cacoons” — a feral cat/raccoon hybrid that he eventually learned was a genetic impossibility.
But, there was an obvious attraction between a male peacock and female swan when the swan became confused and flew into the Village. The man left nesting materials for the pair after seeing the male flashing his plumage at the female, indicating his attraction.
A few days later, he discovered the birds had laid a nest. Four weeks later, 12 cygfowl, or baby sweacocks, hatched.
Sweacocks appear to take after peacocks in their breeding habits.
Unlike swans, they don’t mate for life.
In fact, sweacocks appear to be some of the Key’s most promiscuous birds, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman, who said that after one year, the population of Village sweacocks has increased from eight to 40.
The presence of the new bird species has ruffled a few feathers.
The swan family is considered royalty because they’re descendents of a swan pair donated by Queen Elizabeth. Bay Isles residents are disappointed at the thought of royalty mating with peacocks, which are known as “commoners” in the avian world.
Village residents, however, have mixed feelings about the birds.
Many residents believe they add to the beauty of the neighborhood and have started placing corn kennels, breadcrumbs and other favorite sweacock foods out for the birds each night.
Still, others are fighting back against sweacocks.
Some Village residents plan to ask the commission to make sweacock removal a priority during next week’s Goals & Objectives workshop. Commissioners, however, said that they need to focus on important issues, such as ensuring that four rats that invaded Town Hall in December never return.
Police arrested a Village cat on animal cruelty charges after he attacked a sweacock.
Another man was arrested on wildlife endangerment charges after he brought deviled sweacock eggs to a Village potluck.
Surviving the sweacock
The following tips will help you and your neighbors live in harmony with sweacocks.
• Consider trading in all-black vehicles. Sweacocks, like peacocks, can see their reflections on dark vehicles and may scratch them, causing damages.
• Sweacocks are people-friendly and love to be photographed. Tourists should consider standing in the middle of Broadway to capture every sweacock step on iPhones.
• Like swans, sweacocks are at home in the water. Keep pool gates open and avoid screening in your pool to allow them easy access to the water.
• Be quiet. Loud noises prevent sweacocks from hearing each other’s mating calls.