Villagers keep getting spooked by a ghostly peacock who wanders into their gardens – because he’s looking for a mate.
Lovelorn bird Bertie, an all-white peacock, is often mistaken for a ghost as he wanders the tiny village – while on the hunt for a girlfriend.
Every year during peacock mating season, Bertie makes the mile-long pilgrimage from his home to a neighbouring village – where he goes from house-to-house to find his love.
Last year Rose Botting, 55, had her first encounter with the mischievous Bertie when he caused a week of havoc blocking roads, hopping onto rooftops and startling locals.
Exactly a year later, Bertie flew away from home again and is once more terrorising villagers – by sitting on their roofs and peering through windows.
Bertie hopes to attract a mate by fanning his beautiful white feathers and dancing in her neighbour’s drive, despite there being no peahens with miles of the tiny West Sussex village of Handcross.
Rose said: “Bertie wasn’t going anywhere so I had the bright idea of going onto the internet and searching for a peacock’s calling.
“I played all three minutes and 22 seconds of it.
“As I started walking down the road, Bertie jumped off the roof and started following me.”
When Bertie reached the top of the close, he put his tail feathers up into a full glimmering plumage, a courtship ritual peacocks perform to attract a mate.
It seemed Bertie had chosen his bride when he ended up on Rose’s roof.
Concerned for his safety, Rose continued to play the peacock calling from the bottom of her garden in the hope he would come down.
She said: “I made sure I locked my dogs indoors so they try and eat him.”
She contacted owner Jo Wilding, 50, from nearby Slaugham, who rushed to the village and tried to get her peacock back.
Bertie attracted a noisy crowd of neighbours and he did not want to budge.
When the mischievous pet finally made a run for it, Rose tried to herd him towards an area of park woodland and into the trees to avoid him getting run over.
She said: “We thought that would work until a bit later, I looked up at my roof and there he was again.
“He’d got down for a walk and got back up again.”
The pair came to the conclusion Bertie had nestled down for the night and decided to pursue their rescue mission again the next day.
Rose said: “He was squawking loudly throughout the night.
“Candy, my springer spaniel, was petrified and she ran to hide in one of the bedrooms.
“Perhaps he fell in love with me and decided he wanted to land on my roof but after he kept me up all night, he realised he had no chance.”
The grandmother-of-four woke up to discover he had fled, but thankfully Jo was eventually able to track him down.
Jo later spotted Bertie ‘legging it down the road,’ managed to catch him and sent Rose a photo of the bird safe and sound in the garden.
The peacock, who is a native of the Indian subcontinent, showed up out-of-the-blue at Jo’s farm – and she has no idea where he came from.
Jo said: “He is quite nomadic and very curious.
“He is free-range so he stays here because he wants to.
“Bertie always wants to know what you are getting up to, always looking through the window, and if you leave the door open he will be on the kitchen counter.
“He was basically looking for a mate, that’s why he shouts and displays his feathers.
“The females usually come running but nothing turned up here so that’s why he takes himself off to the village.
“When he came back, he hopped back into his tree and that was that.
“If he leaves again, I will despair. He is a lovely beautiful bird.
Since taking on the bird two years ago, Jo struggled to find a peahen mate for Bertie.
Rose said: “Bertie needs a bride, he’s been stood up.
“Let’s hope he finds himself a bride who is younger and more appropriate than me and he will be happy.”
“He’s lovely and his antics are something else. That peacock is very funny”
Bertie’s two escapes took place during peacock mating season which lasts through spring and into early summer.
During this period, the majestic birds take part in mating rituals such as fanning out their feathers into a full semi-circle, dancing and calling out in order to attract the female peahens.
The size of a peacock’s tail helps the peahen decide whether or not she will mate with him, with females tending to pick peacocks with longer trains with more elaborate eye-spots and more vivid patterning.
The peacock will also make his feathers vibrate performing a little dance to further entice a peahen.