TO many, they add colour and charm to life in a village.
But for one mystery resident, the pair of peacocks that strut around Whitburn are unwelcome neighbours.
Feathers have been ruffled in the coastal community ever since a poster offering a £500 reward for the birds’ capture sprang up in the neighbourhood.
The stray creatures had been adopted by people on the Shearwater Estate after taking up home in the village, and are regularly spotted moving between gardens.
At first, they were three in number, but last year one of the birds vanished in unexplained circumstances.
Now, residents fear for the welfare of the remaining pair after a poster appeared in the village, reading: “£500 reward for the capture of two stray peacocks wandering on Shearwater Estate, Whitburn.
“Owners cannot be traced. Reward is £150 cash for each bird plus £200 bonus if the same person catches both. Reward(s) will be paid when the birds are handed over.”
Locals believe the person responsible for the poster lives among them, and has had enough of the noise the birds make.
Joan George, 87, a retired magistrate, of Front Street, Whitburn, said: “There were three peacocks in the beginning.
“Someone has already shot one of them, last year.
“There are concerns from people that if someone is encouraging people to capture the peacocks, it will attract people with guns to the estate.
“People really are concerned. They are the most beautiful birds.
“I go out with my dogs early in the morning and I often see them – they roost in the trees on the estate and people feed them.
“We are just very concerned that someone will shoot them.”
Residents have reported the poster to police, who confirmed they are now making inquiries into the matter.
Neighbourhood Inspector Dave Hudson said: “We have received reports of concern in relation to the welfare of wild peacocks on Shearwater Estate and a notice relating to their capture.Neighbourhood officers are carrying out further inquiries.”
Last year, South Tyneside Council carried out a survey of residents on the Shearwater Estate to find out whether they were happy for the peacocks to remain in the area.
The council surveyed 51 households on the estate, and received 45 responses. Of those, 60 per cent of residents wanted the birds to be left alone, nine per cent had no preference, four per cent wanted more peacocks to breed in Whitburn, while only 27 per cent said they wanted the birds re-housed.
The poster that appeared in the village contained a mobile telephone number.
When the Echo called the number it was answered by a man who hung up when challenged about the peacocks, and who did not answer further calls or reply to voicemail messages.
A spokesman for the RSPCA said: “We are able to investigate incidents of distress and cruelty. It is worth the residents giving us a call – we may be able to provide information or get someone out to visit them.”