The dedication of a 96-year-old citizen scientist has been an unparalleled lifesaver for his home state’s bluebird population.

Al Larson, also known as “The Bluebird Man”, first began his conservational labor of love after he read an issue of National Geographic that detailed how building bird houses could help to curb their declining populations. After seeing a bluebird going in and out of a dead tree on his property, Larson became inspired to start setting up little boxes that could serve as nests for bluebirds.

“I got carried away,” Larson told Audobon. “I settled on a simple design that [was] easy to build and easy to monitor. I kept adding more boxes on these trails, and these birds responded.”

What started as a hobby to pursue in his retirement turned into a full-time effort  – and after almost four decades of devotion, he has banded and documented over 30,000 bluebirds, thanks primarily to the 350 birdhouses that he has built across southwest Idaho. He often travels over 5,000 miles to check on all of his boxes during the summer nesting season.

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Since bluebirds reside in dead or nearly-dead trees, their population began to decline after the invention of the electric chainsaw in the early 1900s made it easier for homeowners to rid their properties of dead trees.

In addition to having their habitats destroyed, the implementation of pesticides spelled an uncertain future for the bluebirds of Idaho.

But the efforts of Larson have shown us that if we take a moment to understand the needs of a species, the solution will present itself in a practical and obtainable way.

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Now that he is nearing the age of 97, Larson shows no signs of slowing down. Additionally, his inspiring story has been turned into the Emmy award-nominated documentary “Bluebird Man.”

“Al is a living example of how much one person can achieve when they set their mind on a task. But he’s also an example of the benefits that a project like this can have for people,” filmmaker Matthew Podolsky told Audubon. “[Bluebirds] have given meaning to Al’s life, and they are truly the secret to his longevity.”

(WATCH the documentary below) – Feature photo by Matthew Podolsky

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