Letters from the West

'Bluebird Man' tells Al Larson's story of citizen conservation

You may have had the chance in the last month to have watched on Idaho Public Television the film about legendary conservationist Al Larson, aka the Bluebird man.

But if you didn’t you can see this locally produced half-hour documentary about a man who made a difference. "Bluebird Man" will be shown Friday at 8 p.m. at the Boise Centre on the Grove in collaboration with the North American Bluebird Society and the Golden Eagle Audubon Society.

The event will feature filmmaker Matthew Podolsky, and the 91-year-old Bluebird Man himself. Larson built and has been monitoring more than 300 nest boxes for bluebirds in Idaho for 35 years, man in mountain mahoganies of his Owyhee County where he grew up. If you visit the area there are bluebirds everywhere.

Larson was near retirement in 1978 when he was inspired by the North American Bluebird Society’s campaign to encourage people to put up nest boxes. He monitors every stage of the breeding process from nest building, to egg laying, hatching, and finally the fledging of the bluebird chicks.

When the chicks reach a certain age, Larson bands each one with a uniquely numbered federal aluminum leg band. He has banded over 27,000 bluebirds over the past 35 years.

Bluebirds across North America faced precipitous declines during the 1950s, '60s and '70s due in part to increased competition for available nesting cavities. Due in part to efforts of people like Larson, bluebird populations today are at close to historic levels all across North America.

The film, by the non-profit Wild Lens of Boise, is designed to motivate younger generations to continue the monitoring and maintaining of nest boxes for bluebirds so this dramatic recovery is not lost.