Bold and beautiful, peacocks strut in this Southside Savannah neighborhood

ajc.com

Adoniram, Arty to his friends in and around Vernonburg, acts like many a Savannah eccentric. Showy, loud, a bit bossy.

And like many of these personalities, he's loved by some, tolerated by others and  loathed by a few.

Arty is a peacock.

ajc.com

His name comes from the Bible, said Lynda Beam, who lives on the Savannah side of Vernonburg Road, just down the street from the cottage in Vernonburg where she lived as a baby eight decades ago. About 30 years ago, Beam took in some peacocks, including Adoniram's father, also named Adoniram. They came from her cousin Roddy Guerry on nearby Isle of Hope.

"They kept eating people's flowers on Isle of Hope and walking up and down the block," Beam said. "People really got tired of them screaming in the middle of the night. They sound like, some people say, a woman being murdered. They honk if something frightens them, they honk like a rubber horn.  And so Roddy said, 'Do you want them?' And I said, 'Of course, we live in White Bluff  and people out here don't care about peacocks.'"

When the peacocks roosted in Beam's yard, which they did for years, they preferred the big pine tree by the guest room.

"So my guests never stay very long," Beam teased. "Two or three nights then they're out of here."

But over the last few years Beam's guests have been able to enjoy longer visits because her neighbor Marion Gruber has lured Arty and his harem to his yard, feeding them the peanuts the birds adore. Lately the peacock and peahens, as the ladies are called, roost in a big oak behind Gruber's house.

"I love 'em," Gruber said. "I call them my babies."

ajc.com

He also calls them his version of Facebook because the five adult peacocks and their six babies attract visitors to the neighborhood.

"This is my social thing. I get out and talk to them," said Gruber, a widower who's semi-retired. "My kids will get at me, 'Daddy it took you all afternoon to cut the grass?' That's because I was out here talking to everybody. But you know what I mean? People love them. They come by and take pictures of them. I mean, I had a young lady who said,' I've never seen a real peacock.' And you know the kids come by and look at them. And that's the thing, no one will ever see them if they don't see it here."

Gruber brags on Arty's beauty, saying the bird's tail is about 8 feet wide when fully fanned. Arty only does that to impress the ladies, from about December through June. In the summer he slowly sheds those iconic tail feathers. Gruber has a big collection he shares with visitors.

One of the four adult peahens nested in Faye Medina's garden, tucking itself into a corner up against the house and laying three eggs. Medina has reluctantly sacrificed some flowers to the birds.

"Every time a zinnia would get a little bud and get ready to bloom, they'd pop it off in their mouth," she said.

Gruber says they eat the weeds, too, nibbling away all the seeds on a stalk. And Arty is something of a guard bird, sitting high in the oak at night.

"If he hears something he doesn't know he'll let you know it's there," he said.

Loudly.

ajc.com

One neighbor called the police after a peacock ate leaves off her prized Taiwanese cherry tree. The officer ended up at Gruber's, who truthfully said he didn't own the peacocks.

Beam, a tree lover who helped found the Savannah Tree Foundation, made chicken wire baskets to put over the young trees, hoping to spare them and Arty.

The Biblical Adoniram was a tax collector who was stoned to death by the people of Israel. So far, the people of Vernonburg and White Bluff have been more tolerant of their Adoniram, even though he does get on some people's nerves. And in their gardens.

Narvalynn "Princess" Franklin visits in the neighborhood and is always on the lookout for Arty, who she once saw fanning his tail. She was thrilled recently to get one of his feathers.

"I'm gonna put it on my wall," she said.

Mary Landers is the environment and health reporter at the Savannah Morning News. Contact her at 912-655-8295. Twitter: @MaryLandersSMN

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Bold and beautiful, peacocks strut in this Southside Savannah neighborhood