In the Company of Strange Birds

peacock and partridge roher

BY Stefan Kirkpatrick
Illustration by Rebecca Roher

Rumours abound—some supernatural and others full of whimsy, though each entirely plausible—about the bright and fully-plumed peacock strolling our stretch of Highway 331. One resident announced to her family that she had seen the reincarnation of Earl perched on his woodpile, while another arrived late for work last week; she had encountered the bird on her morning commute and had to summon friends nearby to contemplate his strange beauty. What is this bird doing here? Is this the beginning of some strange new migratory pattern? Is there a Turkish princess new to the area? Or perhaps an ugly duckling cast away by his flock at an early age? With time on his hands and a notebook in his pocket, this intrepid reporter set off to find out.

It only took a stroll down the Bush Road to come across Donald Bush, who is well acquainted with the bird. “Earlier this year. we got called out to see it up six feet in the air, a fox hot in pursuit,” he says, “It’s mating season, so he’s usually not hard to find, tail feathers up, making all kinds of noises.” He says they’re all pretty used to it now. I was surprised to learn that the bird got out last year. “Fella up the road used to keep two of them, penned up together, and this one escaped and somehow made it through the winter.”

Donald points across his lawn. Not at the peacock, but at another bird. “The other mystery’s this partridge. The other day, as I was unloading wood, he hops up onto each plank I unload. He’s been strutting around for a few weeks now.” Apparently neither peacock or partridge want anything to do with one another. We follow the partridge till he reaches the shuttered basement window of an empty house next door. “He always loves coming to this window and looking in there. I don’t know what he sees, or if he’s just looking at his own reflection.” One mystery begets another.

The partridge leads us around the corner to the edge of the woods where we find the peacock in all its glory. We stand there for a moment in the company of strange birds, watching as he makes his way to the road. I bid Donald farewell and head homeward, only to see a Honda come to a screeching halt on the highway, the peacock darting for the ditch. I walk through the fresh smell of burnt rubber thinking about how maybe we’re all just feral birds trying to make our way through the mysteries that overwhelm us. I look  back to see another car driving slowly along the shoulder cooing out.

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