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These swanky Salt Lake City neighborhood peacocks are ‘the magic of Goshen Street’

Peacocks show off their iridescent blue and green feathers to attract potential mates.
Courtesy Amy Larsen
Peacocks show off their iridescent blue and green feathers to attract potential mates.

On a quiet street of modest single-family homes, a pride of peacocks struts down the sidewalk like they own the place. Their hallmark blue and green feathers are immediately recognizable.

They've been here for 80 years,” said Amy Larsen, the flock’s unofficial caretaker.

They love seeds, worms, bugs, fruit, vegetables. So sometimes you have to keep them out of your garden.”

The Poplar Grove neighborhood of Salt Lake City often gets visitors, Larsen said, driving through looking for the appropriately named “ostentation” of birds. The males are technically known as peacocks and the females are called peahens. The intrigue around the peafowl is what she calls “The magic of Goshen Street.”

It brings happiness,” she enthused. “And in the world right now, with things being so heavy, it's so nice to have people just pull up and go, ‘Oh my gosh, a peacock!’”

Peahens snack on birdseed in the front lawn of their unofficial caretaker, Amy Larsen, Jan. 21, 2024.
Emily Cohen
/
KHOL
Peahens snack on birdseed in the front lawn of their unofficial caretaker, Amy Larsen, Jan. 21, 2024.

The peafowls were first brought into the neighborhood in the 1940s by Leon and Leonne Brown. The couple owned Brown Floral, a florist and garden supply store around 5th South and 10th West. The 107-year-old business isn’t in the family anymore and has since moved to another part of town, but its legacy lives on in the spectacular plumage that still roams Poplar Grove.

Besides the peacocks, the Browns also had a pair of small Japanese deer, a swan, pheasants and fancy ducks. In a 1947 Salt Lake Tribune article, Leon Brown said children from a nearby school would come to visit his little zoo.

Granddaughter Dannie Brown now lives in New Mexico, but she remembers the peacocks and summers spent with her grandparents.

“Grandpa had this — I think the word is affinity — for beauty and elegance. And the peacocks depict the elegance and the graciousness of pretty much everything grandpa did,” said Brown.

While a peacock swaggering down a Salt Lake City street might seem exotic, peafowl and humans go way back. They are members of the pheasant family. Cooper Farr, the director of conservation at Tracy Aviary, pointed out that “people have had them around for a long time.” The birds were domesticated more than 2,000 years ago in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

“They're on all of the continents except for Antarctica,” Farr said.

Known mostly for their beauty, peafowl make a mess of the neighborhood's cars, Jan. 21, 2024. Superstition has it that being pooped on by a bird is a sign of impending good luck.
Emily Cohen
/
KHOL
Known mostly for their beauty, peafowl make a mess of the neighborhood's cars, Jan. 21, 2024. Superstition has it that being pooped on by a bird is a sign of impending good luck.

Utah is famous for its winters but not like what you see at the South Pole. Even so, peafowl are “quite hardy,” said the Aviary’s curator of exhibit collections, Kate Lyngle-Cowand. She explained it’s the feathers. They make for an excellent — and for the males, flamboyant — winter coat.

They're beautiful. So people want them as pets, but then they realize that they actually can fly. Not well, but they do,” said Lyngle-Cowand.

Even with the peacock’s resilience, Farr said there are things we can all do to make urban environments safer for all birds.

Plant native plants in their landscape, treat windows so that you don't have birds colliding with windows,” Farr suggested. And avoid using poison “to control rodents because that can really impact raptors that use urban areas.”

 A peacock stands watch on the roof of a truck in the Poplar Grove neighborhood, Jan. 21, 2024.
Emily Cohen
/
KHOL
A peacock stands watch on the roof of a truck in the Poplar Grove neighborhood, Jan. 21, 2024.

Peacocks are known for being showy. But in Poplar Grove, Brown granddaughter Lori Brown Waddel said the peacocks were just part of everyday life.

They were noisy and beautiful and big. They would let you pass, if you wanted to walk from the house across the driveway to the back door to the floral to go in and see Grandma and Grandpa, they'd just look at you and let you pass,” said Waddel.

She thought every kid grew up with peacocks. Some 60 years later, maybe it's not all that different for children in the neighborhood today.


Emily Cohen is the executive director of KHOL community radio in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Copyright 2024 KUER 90.1. To see more, visit KUER 90.1.

Emily Cohen | KHOL