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Bluebird Man, the Movie

Posted by Mary Beth Whitaker at Jul 23, 2013 05:05 PM |

Wild Lens is making a film about the man whose persistent work in southern Idaho saved the mountain bluebird.

Bluebird Man, the Movie

Male and female bluebirds in the Owyhees. Neil Paprocki photo.

Editor's Note: Across southern Idaho, the brilliant flashes of blue that signal the mountain bluebird are visible today thanks largely to the dedicated work of one man. About 25 years ago, I had the honor of meeting the man whose work ensures that our state bird prospers instead of disappearing. Now, I'm stoked that Wild Lens is making a film to tell the story of Al Larson—aka Bluebird Man—and the bluebirds we all love. Read on to find out how you can support the film project. This guest blog post is from Matthew Podolsky, producer and director of photography for the film. You can read more about Matt, Wild Lens and the project on their Kickstarter page.

It’s easy to forget that not long ago bluebirds were rapidly disappearing from the landscape across North America. Today the Mountain Bluebird—Idaho’s state bird—is actually quite common in many areas. This was not the case when Al Larson—now known as the “Bluebird Man”—first started putting up nest boxes for bluebirds in 1978. Bluebird populations were threatened by decreases in nesting habitat, increases in nest competitors (primarily from the introduced starling and house sparrow), and increased pressure from nest predators such as raccoons (primarily in the Eastern US). 

This began to change with the founding of the North American Bluebird Society in 1978 and the initiation of a large-scale citizen science program designed to increase nesting habitat for bluebirds across the continent. Here in Idaho Al Larson got involved with this project right from the start, setting up his first nest boxes in the Owyhee Mountains that same year. Al had been looking for a retirement project and had never forgotten that first Mountain Bluebird that he saw in the Owyhees while working as a ranch hand back in the 1930s. For him, this bluebird trail was more than a fun side project; it was a return to the remote mountain landscape of his childhood.

Al Larson with bluebird chicks
Al Larson with bluebird chicks. Matthew Podolsky photo.

Al is now 91 years old, but he continues to monitor and maintain his bluebird boxes. He now has over 300 boxes spread out across Southwest Idaho that fledge close to 1,000 bluebird chicks every year. This provides a substantial boost to bluebird populations in this area, a trend that has been universal throughout the bluebird’s range. Throughout the US and Canada citizen scientists from all walks of life have set up nest box trails of their own, and as a result we have seen the dramatic recovery of bluebird populations.

Telling Al’s story and the story of the bluebird is hugely important to us for a number of reasons. First and foremost, we aim to inspire the next generation of conservationists and bluebird enthusiasts by highlighting Al’s unique role in this conservation effort. We also hope to show how beneficial Al’s relationship with his bluebirds is for both him and the birds. While the bluebirds receive additional nesting habitat from Al, from the bluebirds Al has been given the focus and energy that has kept him active and alert into his 90s.

Become a part of Al’s story by backing “Bluebird Man” on Kickstarter. You will be ensuring, not just that our film gets made, but that Al’s legacy continues.

More information:

—Matthew Podolsky


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