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Iconic peacocks at Morningside Heights cathedral are retiring

They’re flying the coop. 

A trio of beloved peacocks who have ruled the roost around a Morningside Heights cathedral for more than two decades are retiring upstate.

“We certainly could provide housing for them and food, but they’re getting to the point now where that’s not enough,” the Very Rev. Patrick Molloy, dean of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, told The Post while recalling years of toting around almonds in his pockets for the birds. “There comes a point where you have to be honest about what’s possible.”

Peafowl have strutted and squawked across the Cathedral’s verdant 13-acre grounds since 1972, when the Bronx Zoo donated chicks to the institution. Over the years,  the church has cared for at least eight of the exotic avians, with the current trio — Harry, Jim and Phil — being gifted by the affiliated Cathedral School in 2002. 

Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
The grounds of St. John’s have been home to peacocks for over fifty years.
Christopher Sadowski

The latest peacocks, however, have lived past the average life expectancy of their wild counterparts and increasingly require specialized care for their ailments. To ensure the birds live out their best “golden years,” they are moving by the end of the month to an animal sanctuary in South Salem, NY, the church recently announced

“As any pet owner knows, it’s a 15-year thing and then it’s goodbye,” mourned Marsha Ra, 81, who has worshiped at the cathedral for more than 50 years, and remembers when the three birds were “the size of pigeons.” 

“I hope they will be happy in their new home.” 

Over the past 20 years, these iconic peacocks have imbued the urban jungle with a true sense of the wild. Their iridescent plumage was often an unexpected sight for locals and tourists alike, while their springtime mating calls pierced the usual cacophony of sirens and cab honks. 

Jim the peacock at St. John the Divine
The peacocks at St. John’s have brought some of the wild to the urban jungle.
J.C. Rice

“In the spring when they were opening up feathers, my daughters were astounded,” said Philip Binioris, 36, who owns the nearby Hungarian Pastry Shop. “You see it in a story book, but to be walking on the Close and then all of the sudden you see this enormous display of a peacock, it was really special.” 

The trio also managed to cultivate a reputation for mischief, trawling unguarded students’ backpacks for earthly delights like stray chips or nuts. 

Caretaker of Phil the white peacock.
Phil the peacock was easily distinguished from his companions by his white feathers.
J.C. Rice

“I happened to be attending a meeting for the school book fair and one of the school administrators came into the room and asked, ‘Did anyone leave a stroller on the porch with a sandwich, because one of the peacocks just ate it,’” recalled writer and former school mom Robin Newman, 55, who based her children’s book “No Peacocks” on the culinary heist. 

Many residents are hoping divine intervention will lead to a new group of birds gracing the church’s grounds. 

“Hopefully they’ll bring some new peacocks in, some young guys,” said Binioris. “It’ll be fun to see how different they are.”

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