Kevin, The Unofficial Mascot of Rollinsford, Flies Off In The Night

Apr 20, 2018

Kevin the sandhill crane, posing in Rollinsford.
Credit Courtesy of Chad Witko

Back in January, NHPR ran a story about Kevin, a sandhill crane who was melting hearts in the town of Rollinsford. Despite a leg injury and freezing temperatures, the bird was living its best life in this small town.

With the warmer weather and longer days, Kevin now appears to have flown the coop, leaving behind many a brokenhearted resident.

Editor’s note: we highly recommend listening to this story.

Ken Perry reads aloud from the official 2017 Town of Rollinsford Report, as approved by the Select Board. On page one, there’s a dedication to Kevin the crame.

“Mother nature has a way of reminding us what is really important,” reads Perry. “The improbable presence of Kevin the Sandhill Crane in Rollinsford is an example of this.”

The improbable Kevin.

Ken and his wife Salme are just two of the many people who have paid close attention to this bird since it arrived in town last year. No one knows where Kevin came from or where Kevin was going. It’s like it was dropped off by a stork, which is, in fact, sort of what sandhill cranes look like.

“He reminds us that it is through our concern for others that we find our true fulfillment as a community of disparate individuals,” reads Perry,

The community paid close attention to Kevin’s every move, whether it was visiting the cemetery, local farms or just hanging out in its preferred front yard.

When the bird suddenly injured its leg, the town’s Facebook page lit up with concerned posts and videos. When the weather turned arctic in January, well-wishers posted updates and one loving woman fed Kevin bird seed to see it through the winter.

And then right around Easter, there were several posts asking if anyone had seen the bird.

Suddenly Kevin, who had become a fixture on Main Street, had vanished.  

“I think he’s gone off and found himself a mate, which I think is a good thing, because he was doing his mating dance with a squirrel. That doesn’t work out to well, man,” laughs Perry.

This gif was produced from a Facebook video uploaded by user Kelli Ferrer to the Rollinsford NH Happenings Facebook group
Credit via Facebook

Salme pulls up a video on Facebook from late March, just before the bird’s disappearance.  Kevin is in a muddy front yard, jumping up and down and flapping its elegant wings.

“And see the squirrel. And then he turns around and goes after it,” exclaims Salme.

I checked with some biologists, and there’s skepticism that Kevin was really trying to woo a squirrel. The bird may have just been playing, not actually doing a formal mating dance. One biologist from Nebraska, where hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes gather each spring, said it does look like male bird behavior, though he couldn’t be sure. Kevin’s sex has been a topic of some speculation.

What is certain is that sandhills are social birds. After spending the winter by himself, Kevin likely either found or is now looking for other cranes to spend his summer with.

At the Town Hall, administrative assistant and bookkeeper Carolyn Kendall isn’t quite ready to let go.

“Who couldn’t be a fan of Kevin? Kevin is like the little local hero that keeps the community one. He’s like our mascot now. It will be really highly disappointing if in fact he’s really, totally gone,” she says.

If he’s really gone. If. If is hope, if is the belief that Kevin may come back, perhaps with a mate next winter.

Across the street at the Post Office, Beth Rose expresses what many here are feeling right now.

“I still look every day when I drive by, see if he’s out there. But, it’s sad not knowing exactly what happened,” says Rose, trailing off.

Then Salme Perry finishes her thought: “It’s a big hole, it’s a loss. But it is alright. Life goes on.”