Birdman’s biography soars

  • Book cover

  He's known as the Birdman of Boise, and is perhaps the most underrated conservationist in the West. In Cool North Wind: Morley Nelson's Life with Birds of Prey, Idaho writer Stephen Stuebner tells the story of a former Soil Conservation Service employee, "a flamboyant salt-of-the-earth character, a father of four, a husband, a widower, a pioneer, a visionary."

Nelson's contributions to preserving raptors are staggering: Over the past 50 years, he has raised and rehabilitated dozens of birds in his own home, lectured tirelessly against the rampant shooting of raptors, designed safer power lines to prevent thousands of birds from being electrocuted, and campaigned to establish the Snake River Birds of Prey Natural Area. When a highway expansion forced The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey out of its original Colorado location, Nelson helped find a home for it in Boise. He also brought birds of prey into millions of living rooms and theaters by contributing to 30 films about raptors, including the Disney film, The Eagle and the Hawk, which co-starred Nell Newman and inspired the John Denver album, Aerie. All this from someone who began practicing falconry for fun as a boy on a South Dakota farm.

Nelson's success, it is clear, is the natural outcome of his incredible work ethic, his contagious passion for these majestic birds, and his unquestionable charm. Stuebner's biography captures Nelson as not only an impressive pioneer in the environmental movement, but as an intensely frank and big-hearted model of how to live life robustly. As fellow falconer Charles Schwartz says, "Morley uses the words beauty, grace and courage to describe falcons. I've often felt that those words describe exactly what Morley is."

Cool North Wind, Stephen Stuebner, Caxton Press, 2002. 458 pages. Hardcover: $24.95. Caxton Press can be reached at 312 Main, Caldwell, Idaho 83605.
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