Written by: Sandra Davey, Mountsberg Raptor Centre Lead
On January 29, 2010, a 10 month old male American Kestrel joined the education team at the Mountsberg Raptor Centre. At the time, nobody had any idea just how truly special this bird would turn out to be. This special bird left our team unexpectedly on July 31, 2015 after contracting an infection that he could not recover from. Bean the American Kestrel was a well-known and much loved Mountsberg educator during his five and a half years with us.
Despite being captive-bred, Bean had never been handled or trained prior to his arrival at the Raptor Centre. During his early days of training, the Raptor Centre staff started to get an inkling of what an amazing bird Bean was. On only his second day with us he was eating food off of our gloves, by day 3 he stepped up for food, and after only one week he appeared briefly in his very first public presentation. Other birds can take months of training to be ready to make their first public appearance!
While Raptor Centre staff strive to ensure the comfort of all of our education birds during their daily lives and public appearances, Bean seemed to thrive on interacting with staff, volunteers and the public. We would often joke that Bean never read the manual that says that raptors aren’t social! Anyone who ever had the pleasure of meeting Bean during a behind-the-scenes tour had the experience of watching him hop excitedly to the front of his enclosure to greet them. It truly seemed like he wanted to come say hello! In fact, we had to devise a special perch for the front window of Bean’s enclosure so that he could sit in the window and watch us come and go. Without this special perch, he would hang onto the front window when we walked by, causing him to mess up his tail feathers.
Bean was always happy to engage with people and took part in all of our various programs. He helped teach school programs, travelled offsite, was a genuine model during our photography sessions, and was willing to hop onto the glove of anyone he met, including hundreds of children who took part in our Raptor Camp program. He was often the bird that helped us train our Raptor Centre volunteers how to handle a bird. Bean helped to inspire a love of and respect for raptors in literally thousands of people. As one park visitor expressed on our Facebook page after Bean’s passing, “I didn’t even know what an American Kestrel was until I met and fell in love with Bean.” Talk about a tremendous impact from a tiny little bird!
On behalf of the Raptor Centre staff and the thousands of people who met Bean over the years, I want to say a very big heart-felt thank you to Bean for sharing his life with us. While we love all of our feathered educators, Bean held a special place in our hearts and his loss will be felt for a long time to come. My thanks go out as well to everyone who took the time to comment on our Facebook page about their interactions with Bean over the years. The Raptor Centre team loved hearing how special Bean was to all of you as well.