Marking a man with a mission: Make bluebirds happy
Leif Marking points to an oblong bluebird house hole the birds prefer as Mary Strasser of Onalaska, left, and Diane Fernholz of Holmen observe during a recent bluebird house workshop. Photo by David M. Skoloda

A pair of bluebirds have been checking out our bluebird house in the past week, a house that has been used successfully by nesting pairs in the past, but which is showing some signs of age. After attending a session on bluebird boosting last weekend, I know it's time for some bluebird home repairs, although it might be too late for this season.

Leif Marking, who conducted a workshop for Clearwater Farm, says La Crosse County has become the "Bluebird Capital of Wisconsin," thanks to the growing number of people who provide proper nesting houses that have helped the bluebird population grow.

But that's not good enough. He wants La Crosse County to be the "Super Bluebird Capital of Wisconsin," and is seeking help to document the claim.

He believes that there might be 100 or more bluebird houses in the county (ours included) that could successfully produce broods but aren't being counted.

These are single houses kept by individuals who give them careful attention, thus giving them a high percentage of success.

"I'm appealing to everyone to help us make our goal of 1,500 fledges this year," Marking said Saturday after conducting the workshop at his Marking Ridge farm. A baby bird "fledges" when it is ready for flight and leaves the nest.

Marking says bluebird house observers can help by calling him to report what success they've had with their houses. He will then create the reports necessary to document the county's bluebird production. He can be reached at 781-0323 or by e-mail at

Marking said the Brice Prairie Conservation Association bluebird project had more than 1,000 fledges last year, double the year before. The goal this year is 1,500.

"Goal setting is important," he said.

Marking also encouraged the Clearwater Farm members to organize a careful routine of checking and reporting on the success of bluebird houses at the Clearwater Farm land in Greens Coulee. By encouraging other property owners in the coulee to maintain houses as well, "you could do 100 (birds fledged) in Greens Coulee!" said Marking.

He chuckled when I suggested an Alfred Hitchcock-vision of bluebirds fluttering about the countryside in great numbers. But you could see that his thoughts quickly returned to adding the production from Greens Coulee to his growing list of bluebird raising sites in the county. Marking does his share for the effort; he took care of 107 houses last year, checking them every week and reporting the eggs produced (581) the eggs hatched (494) and the number of birds fledged (459). He describes himself as being "aggressive" in looking out for bluebirds.

I've noticed that bluebirds can be very tough and determined in defending their territory once they have started nesting. They've probably attended a workshop conducted by Leif Marking.

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