For the residents of Chingford, this leafy town on the edge of east London, Kevin was so much more than an animal that squawked long into the night. He was an “icon” and local treasure. A majestic creature who danced in their gardens like a Spice Girl, perched on their walls and rooftops elegantly and brought comfort to those grieving the loss of loved ones to covid-19.
For the hundreds of children that attend Yardley school, Kevin was the celebrity that they searched for in the grounds each day. He was the novelty guest who once interrupted a spelling test by repeatedly banging his beak on the classroom door.
“He adopted us,” Evans said of the bird last year, describing Kevin as the “pandemic peacock” that landed to “brighten our days.”
On Sunday, many parents were faced with the difficult task of explaining to their children that when they returned to school Kevin would no longer be present.
“When we heard the bad news, we dreaded telling the kids as we knew they would be upset,” explained Rob and Zoe Warner, whose children Mia, 4, and Leo, 8, attend the school. Like many young pupils, the Warner siblings would keep an eye out for Kevin each day, squealing in excitement whenever he appeared with his long green tail fanned out behind him.
News of Kevin’s death plunged locals into mourning, with many taking to social media to write “RIP Kevin” alongside photos and videos of the bird that wove color through the darkness of a global health crisis.
School staff, among others, had expressed concern that Kevin might not survive the harsh British winter, especially after he lost his feathers to mark the end of the mating season last year. But while Kevin did manage to survive icy conditions and snowstorms, he was taken down by warm-blooded predators.
“It’s so sad,” said IT consultant Lambros Poullais, who created the bird’s fan page on Facebook last year. Poullais, who lives close to the school, said he heard the sound of foxes screeching at around 3 a.m. Sunday, adding that normally Kevin would hide high in the trees to avoid becoming a target in an area where foxes are often seen.
According to the school janitor, Kevin was clearly rattled late Saturday evening and eventually settled down to sleep in a tree in the playground, although the branch was noticeably lower than his usual resting place.
“We will miss him greatly,” Evans told The Washington Post on Monday, adding that staff were already brainstorming ways to commemorate Kevin’s memory — possibly through a mural painted by a local artist. Some locals say they are hoping to see a Kevin statue erected in the neighborhood one day.
After three nationwide lockdowns and more than 120,000 deaths in Britain, a sliver of hope now lingers amid a mass vaccine rollout and a plan to emerge from stringent “stay home” orders expected to be announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday.
“Some staff are taking the philosophical view that he came to the school when we most needed him and his work here is now done,” Evans said, adding that grieving members of staff were searching to find meaning behind the bird’s cruel death.
Nobody ever did discover where Kevin came from.
Beth Murray, a 35-year-old resident, said the bird “died as he lived. Mysteriously, and with all of Chingford talking about him.”
And indeed by Sunday night, most of the neighborhood was talking about Kevin.
As tributes flooded Facebook, some people denied that the animal had been killed, sharing recent photos taken of a peacock that appeared to be walking the streets of Chingford.
“That’s not Kevin,” wrote one user, while the school confirmed that Kevin had indeed been killed and that another peacock now known as “Not Kevin” appeared to have arrived in town.