Skip to main content

The Bluebird Man: A Guest Poem

By Daryl Jones, Guest Author

Where I live, on the edge of the desert outside of Boise, you don’t see many bluebirds. In fact, the only one I’ve seen here is the one that’s nested in my mind for nearly sixty years: that is, the bluebird that lived briefly one spring in the nest box I’d built out of scrap wood when I was a teenager in Maryland; the same bluebird that starred in the 8mm. movie I shot as the final project in my high school biology class. Imagine, then, how inspired I was on seeing the 2014 documentary “Bluebird Man,” produced and directed by Matthew Podolsky and Neil Paprocki and featuring an appearance by the IBO’s own Jay Carlisle. The film focuses on ninety-one-year-old citizen scientist Al Larson, who for the previous thirty-five years had been setting out and tending more than 350 nest boxes for bluebirds in Idaho. Inspiring as it was, the film achieved another of its aims. It made me wonder.

Who would care for these bluebirds when Al Larson no longer could? And when that time came, would there still be any bluebirds left?

an elderly man in a baseball cap holds a ruler and a small bird, whose blue tail feathers can just be seen sticking out between his finger and thumb
Bluebird Man Al Larson gently measures a Mountain Bluebird from a nesting box along the Jordan Valley Bluebird Trail in the Owyhee Mountains, ID. Photo Credit: Matthew Podolsky

I’m neither a trained ornithologist nor a citizen scientist. My only credential is the credential that we all possess: the personal responsibility to preserve our planet and its creatures in whatever ways we can, big or small. For me, writing a poem was one of those ways. A gentle reminder, you might say, as much for me as anyone else. If you’re reading this, you probably have already accepted your full share of this responsibility. If not, you could. Just reach out your hand and take it.

a beautiful sky blue bird perches on top of a dry gray branch. sagebrush, juniper, and a few remaining snowbanks can be seen in the blurry mountains in the background
An adult male Mountain Bluebird perching on a branch along the Jordan Valley Bluebird Trail in the Owyhee Mountains, ID. Photo Credit: Matthew Podolsky


for Al Larson


A tuft of sky, that tremulous blue

startling in the corner of my eye.


And his—watery blue in the weathered face

of ninety-one years. For the last thirty-five,


he’s built nest boxes, set them out

on trails branching the high meadows like veins,


and tended them all summer, checking for eggs,

banding the peeping chicks, cleaning the boxes


for next spring when the first thin scouts arrive.

Who will do this when he’s gone, I wonder,


the whole species as vulnerable and threatened

as the blind nestling he’s cradling in his palm?


Reach out, he says. Here, hold it.


By: Daryl Jones, Boise, Idaho

(“Bluebird Man” was first published by and is reprinted here with permission of the author.)

This article is part of our 2021 end of the year newsletter! View the full newsletter here, or click “older posts” below to read the next article.

Make sure you don’t miss out on IBO news! Sign up to get our email updates.