By Melissa Cooper

After spending the better part of September on eastern Long Island, I’m home in NYC, where fall has thinned the trees in Riverside Park. Home in the city, where the peacocks roam. Our first day back, the dog and I visited the grounds of Saint John the Divine to check in on the three free-roaming peacock boys.  We looked in the Biblical garden, our urban secret garden, but saw no peacocks.

secret garden in new york city

No peacocks on the way to the garden’s romantic arbor.

romantic spot

No peacocks at the leafy throne.

secret places, NYC

And no peacocks on the way out of the garden.

entrance to st john biblical garden

Suddenly we heard three loud squawking cries: Peacocks!  We followed the sound and, slipping into a half-hidden construction storage area, we found:

peacock in fall

The peacocks drop their glorious long tail feathers long before New York City’s trees drop their leaves.  But that’s all right. The diminished splendor of the tail leaves us more able to appreciate the subtler beauty of their speckled wings and rusty underfeathers that perfectly match the piles of brick.

The peacock preened, turning his neck this way and that, putting more kinks into it than seems possible.

peacock bendy neck

However do they do that?

I wondered.

bird cervical vertebraeAnd then I remembered


I’ve already researched and written


the extraordinary cervical flexibility

of long-necked birds.

Birds have at least


and as many as


cervical vertebrae.

Humans, by contrast, like all mammals,

have a mere


And  some animals, notably frogs, have



Really. One.

You can read all about it here, in

Bird Neck Appreciation Day.

But I digress.

Let us return

to the peacock,

who continued

to bend and twist, with most impressive dexterity.

close-up peacock against bricks

We watched for a while. And we, in turn, were watched.

We became fascinated by the peacock’s scaly feet.

peacock feet

Eventually, we headed back into the open grounds, where we found the white peacock known as Phil.

phil white peacock

He wandered into the bushes.

He lurked among the flowers.

white peacock with fall flowers

On our way out of the grounds, we found the third peacock in the grasses near Amsterdam Avenue. We stopped to watch. He moved into the sunlight.

peacock grazing

And then we left.

Oh, it’s good be home.

Photos by Melissa Cooper, a West Side Rag columnist. She runs the blog Out Walking the Dog, where she published a different version of this column. Read her other columns for us here.

COLUMNS, OUTDOORS | 2 comments | permalink
    1. Dianita says:

      Wonderful photos and story!
      Reading it created a sense of peace found in our great city!
      Thank you!

    2. David T says:

      Love the Peacocks. I took my daughter up there a few weeks ago and played the same game, trying to find them. What a beautiful spot (although I hope not too many people read this post… let’s keep it an UWS secret!)