An adventurous, colorful new gal breezed into town last week. She entertains and amuses most folks, but she ruffles some feathers, too.

I encountered Johnstown’s peahen “Gertrude”on Facebook. I followed her escapades on a recent Thursday afternoon. After pausing at a bank drive-thru (maybe she needed cash?), she proceeded to Visitation Parish (needed the money for offering), then visited Good Sam Hospital to cheer patients gazing out windows.

What a gal! I grinned at her choice of destinations until I saw an expressway photo. Reality set in.

I knew a little Peacock 101. They hail from tropical climates, don’t migrate and can’t fly long distances.

Her fearlessness suggested she’d been “home-schooled” by humans. 

While she could survive on grass and worms, she would soon grow weary of fending for herself. Clearly, she belonged someplace with proper food, fresh water and fellowship (fowl-o-ship?) of other birds.

“Peacock U” didn’t teach survival skills: expressway navigation, predator evasion or “stranger danger.”

My next move probably fueled the feathered frenzy. Facebook provided a number for an “owner,” and I called.

A tearful lady explained that her pet had bolted during the tornado. I asked about Gertie’s favorite “people” food, hoping to supply rescuers with ammunition. 

“Corn on the cob,” I was told.

I posted the info. I wanted folks to get serious about Gertie’s welfare.

I learned several days later that I’d been misinformed. 

Stories changed when officials and the media focused attention on details.

One constant fact remained: A beautiful, confused, exotic creature was trying to find her way home. A peahen is probably not the best choice of pet for our region, but what was done was done.

Johnstowners swooned with fascination, snapping photos and reporting sightings.

Gary Hebenthal, a Southmont resident, created “Johnstown Peacock Sightings” website, enabling himself and other “Gertie-Groupies” to track her travels.

We just endured a frigid, seemingly endless winter. Spring brought rain, gloom, violence, senseless tragic deaths and pesky tornados.

Gertrude made us smile. She taught us lessons about wildlife and nature.

She distracted us from “izzat gunfire or fireworks?”

Johnstown needed a lift, and Gertrude was the gal for the job.

I take issue with the breeder from Lycoming County who contends Gertrude is neither lost nor scared, and not in danger.

His flocks reside in netted pens. 

They eat healthy game bird feed and enjoy fresh water, plus the companionship of other fowl. Hmmm.

Does Gertrude deserve less?

Summer’s here. Gertie seems to favor Ferndale, but this can’t go on forever.

Gertrude T-shirts are in demand. A talented couple composed a song celebrating Gertrude’s contribution to our civic pride.

Lyrics by Camette Marie Standly, vocal by Owen P. Standly, sung to tune of “Hey, Jude.”


 “Gertrude, don’t be afraid.

“People love you – and your feathers.

“You’re wanted, a fugitive of the law.

“But Gertie, don’t stop, please run forever.”

“Gertrude, don’t be so shy.

“You take this sad town and make it better.

“You wander downtown and into Eighth Ward.

“Gertie, you know, you brought us together.”

 “And anytime you feel the strain, Gertrude, remain.

“You carry such joy upon your shoulders.

“For you know, you are a fowl who brings a smile to faces of young,

“And those of the older ... older ... older ... older ...”

“I think this is a wonderful story for our town,” Hebenthal said. “When you think about how hundreds of people rallied around that bird, imagine what we could do for each other.”

Amen, Mr. H.

From our beaks to God’s ears. She is in His hands, but aren’t we all?

Godspeed, Gertrude. 

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and regular community columnist for The Tribune-Democrat.​ She can be reached at