The sight of a number of chilled out peacocks and their lady friends, in their dazzling shades of turquoise and iridescent blue, is something you might expect in a zoo or perhaps sub-continent India, but surely not in the streets of downtown Narrabundah, one of Canberra’s inner-most suburbs. But there they are, as they’ve been for decades, just strutting around as if they own the place. And now, after years of consideration and a bit of a community stoush, it looks like they’re here to stay.
No one is exactly sure how the birds got there. There’s a reported story from the locals that a peacock, variously called Andrew or Harry, turned up at a house in 1992— and just stayed, venturing from the backyard to the front. Gradually others moved in to keep him company and they seemed to get on well, because their numbers have slowly grown to their current count of around 30.
There are also reports from other locals that the peafowl have been around in smaller numbers long before then, since the 1970s and 1980s. One theory is that they were released from a small zoo on Mugga Lane in Symonston that closed in the early 90s. Another is that a former diplomatic resident in the area kept them at his house for several years and released them when he went back home. Take your pick. There’s also a smaller muster (that’s the collective noun, although pride or ostentation is also used) of them at Pialligo, where they’ve similarly been hanging around for some time.
I’ve lived in or close to the area for nearly 30 years, so the occasional sighting of a peafowl while on a walk has become quite normal, though still delightful. Our dogs over the years have been most intrigued, but well behaved from a distance. Last week in the middle of a heatwave, six peafowl unexpectedly turned up in my driveway, the first time I’ve ever seen them stray this far from their usual haunts, and wandered happily around for an hour or two before they headed off home in a pack, or a pride.
Although they surprise visitors to the neighbourhood, they’re very well known locally and drivers are well-trained to look out for them. Most of the locals with whom they share streets are very fond of them, or at least largely unfazed. Although they do rummage in gardens, many residents delight in their company and often leave out seed and water. In return, they get to watch the beautiful birds and their fine colours, and sometimes their exuberant feather displays and shimmering dances as the boys try to attract the girls. And around Christmas, they get to see the families and watch cute parades of little chicks tottering around close to their mums.
Not all the residents love them, of course, citing their droppings, loud mating calls and the damage they can cause to gardens as the reasons for their complaints. The ACT Government has taken the complaints seriously and a couple of times over the years has attempted to capture some with the intention of re-homing. Only problem was they couldn’t find suitable homes, so they were returned back to where they came from.
In April 2018, the government again put out notice of its plan to capture, cull and re-home the birds and called for submissions from the public. A Save the Narrabundah Peafowl movement was formed by a group of supporters dedicated to protecting their feathered friends, and the community spoke quite loudly, holding meetings and advocating online. While some in the community voiced objections, the responses to the consultation were overwhelmingly in favour of retaining the birds, who have become part of the fabric of the neighbourhood.
So in June 2018 the cull was cancelled. Power to the people! Now there’s an agreed approach to managing the peafowl into the future so hopefully they’ll stick around for quite a while longer.
Now safe in their suburban home, at dusk when the light dims the peafowl appear on the streets and in their favourite ‘safe’ gardens where they know they’re likely to be fed. A number will jump on the rooftops to watch the sun go down. It’s rather a lovely sight.
Personally, I love this little ostentation of peafowl (just giving each of the collective nouns a go) and I’ve popped in a couple of times of late to try and capture some photos. It was harder than I’d imagined. They’re not stressed by people, but they’re constantly on the move and they don’t like you to get too close. I managed to see a couple of clutches of chicks, but on the day I took the grandkids for a little peek, we could only spot one. Sadly, I’ve read that our heatwave over the last week or so has been too much for a few of them to cope with and some haven’t made it.
It’s nice to know whenever I venture that far on my walking outings, I may run into some. I’m always thrilled when I do.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over their colours. Surely they are one of nature’s most splendid creatures.
Do you have any usual inhabitants in your area?