Free-roaming feathered friends (mostly) welcomed with aplomb in Manitoba town

Souris, Man.’s heart and soul hinged on a historic swinging bridge that was lost to devastating flooding in 2011.

While a replacement bridge was constructed in 2013, the community had a bit of an identity crisis, fearing tourists wouldn’t come just to see the new bridge.

Turns out they were right

In a twist of fate, the flood that claimed their beloved bridge also set free a flock of peacocks from the town’s bird sanctuary. And with that, a new tourist attraction was born.

Souris, Man., was home to the country’s longest suspension bridge until it was lost to a flood in 2011. Courtesy: Manitoba Historical Society
Souris, Man., was home to the country’s longest suspension bridge until it was lost to a flood in 2011. Courtesy: Manitoba Historical Society. Manitoba Historical Society

“It sure is an attraction,” says Jim Ludlam, fondly known as the peacock man. He and his family donated a pair of birds to the sanctuary and he’s now tasked with minding a small flock kept in a barn at the former sanctuary site, as well as keeping tabs on the free-range flock — around 15 birds — who roam the streets and yards during the warm months.

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The town usually rounds them up in the fall to keep them safe from predators and warm over winter.

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“This is the first winter that we had birds we didn’t catch,” Ludlam explains, saying some peacocks evaded the live traps in November 2023, opting instead to forage in the bush and around bird feeders for food in what was a mild winter.

“A peacock is hardier than people think. They originate from India, where it’s warm, but they do adapt to the cold weather,” Ludlam says.

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As spring has sprung, so have the peacocks from their winter hiding spots to once again strut their stuff in town.

But not everyone is a fan of the fan-tailed feathered friends.

“Some people love them and there are people that just hate them,” Ludlam says. “They like to peck at (shiny truck) bumpers and they do a little bit of damage at times.”

Manitoba Public Insurance tells Global News in the past five years they’ve had two peacock-related claims — both in 2023 and both from Souris, 240 kilometres west of Winnipeg.

Mayor Duane Davison says even if they can be pesky, most of the community is glad they leaned in to make the peacock “phenomenon” part of the town’s tourist identity.

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“The peacocks have exceeded the swinging bridge (as a tourist draw), which is pretty interesting,” Davison says, adding that one couple came from the other side of the globe for a glimpse.

Souris’s replacement swinging bridge is still an attraction but not as much as peacocks have been, Mayor Duane Davison says. Kim do Koning/submitted. Kim do Koning/submitted

“They flew from Germany to Winnipeg, rented a car and drove to Souris to see peacocks. So that’s pretty cool,” he says.

The town, just 20 kilometers south of the Trans Canada Highway on Highway 250, has spots to take peacock-related selfies while Pavo the Peacock — a massive metal tribute to the birds — is his own attraction.

As is that new swinging bridge — which some townsfolk insist is still the main attraction.

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.