A Windermere couple has adopted and fed generations of peacocks and peahens on their property, and the birds have made it their permanent home.
All is quiet on Joel and Winnie Sharp’s property in Windermere — until he rattles the bag of Meow Mix. Then the scratching noises start and, one by one, small, bright blue plumed heads appear over the second-floor balcony. Seconds later, as soon as the cat food hits the wooden deck out back, the commotion begins.
They fly down from the roof and the balcony, they come from around the sides of the house, they trot up the steps from the yard and dig into their afternoon treat.
The Sharps currently share their lakefront lawn and rooftop with 13 peacocks and peahens — although that number has been as high as 25. These birds have lived on Lake Butler since at least the 1950s.
Joel Sharp estimates they have lived among four generations of the peacocks.
Winnie Sharp’s uncle lived next door, and she remembers visiting him as a child and being fascinated by the large birds and their occasional screams. About 50 years ago, she and her husband built their home, and the peacocks slowly migrated over to their house and never left.
“The first night we spent the night here we heard a loud noise, and I thought a plane had come through the roof,” Winnie Sharp said. “It was them. They stayed and made families.”
At the end of their driveway, a painted sign declares the property Sharps’ Peacock Stables. Joel Sharp said the family decided on the name because there were horse stables there. The sign has been known to throw off residents.
“People stop and ask if we have any for sale or we train them,” Winnie Sharp said. “No, they just live here.”
The Sharps also have played the role of mama when a peahen left a few of her eggs behind.
“We took them in and incubated them in a little cage,” Winnie Sharp said. “We were in a meeting in Atlanta, and our children sent us a message and said the peacocks are hatching on the piano.”
Although the peacocks live on the Sharp property, they don’t officially belong to the couple and are free to roam. However, the pheasants typically stay close to where they hatched, Winnie Sharp said.
“People used to call and say, ‘Your peacocks are in our yard,’” she said. “They don’t belong to us. They just live here.”
The birds have made themselves at home with the Sharps. They wander the grounds, drink from the bubbling water fountain beside the deck, eat flowers in the yard. They aren’t housebroken, she said, but they are good watch birds.
At night, the birds fly up into one particular tall pine tree on the east side of their property, hopping from limb to limb until they reached their desired height.
After they lie down and settle in for the night, Winnie Sharp said, she can’t even tell they’re up there.
“Once they get to the tree, they’re all quiet,” she said. “They hunker down, and you wouldn’t know there are 13 birds in that tree.”
Every morning, like clockwork, the peacocks are awake and waiting for Joel Sharp — on what he calls the second-floor peacock deck — to feed them a breakfast of wild birdseed and sunflower seeds. They will feast on insects and lizards, too.
All of the downstairs living areas at the Sharp house have at least one peacock on display. There are two large stained-glass pieces that catch the sun through the back windows plus another small framed glass peacock in a window at the other end of the room.
A few peacocks sit atop the piano, and more grace the Christmas tree. Figurines, bowls and candleholders in blues and greens also decorate the space.
Many were gifts from friends, they said.
Several vases contain hundreds of colorful feathers — mostly in various shades of blue, green and brown — that have dropped during the male molting period, which is the spring.
The feathers tend to disintegrate over time, but the Sharps know come spring they can gather a fresh and bright handful to display, because their peacocks aren’t going anywhere.
“This is their home,” Joel Sharp said.