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February 7, 2019 at 9:04 am

Alumni News | Eltzroth Helped Boost Population of Western Bluebirds

Elsie Kollin Eltzroth, portrait

Elsie Kollin Eltzroth

Ohio University alumna Elsie Kollin Eltzroth ’47 known in Oregon as the Bluebird Lady, died Feb. 1 at the age of 95 and will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

She earned a B.S. in Biological Sciences-Clinical Laboratory cum laude in 1947 from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University.

She spent more than 35 years helping to boost the Western Bluebird population, starting the Bluebird Trail and a huge volunteer effort as well as contributing to peer-reviewed ornithological journals, as detailed in her obituary in the Gazette Times:

Elsie met Merlin S. Eltzroth (Elzy) at Ohio University in November of 1941, and they were married in June of 1943 while Elzy was in flight school at Bainbridge, Georgia. Shortly after they were married, Army Air Corps Cadet Eltzroth earned his wings and his second lieutenant bars and was sent overseas to fly P-47’s. He flew missions over Italy from the island of Corsica during World War II.

Elsie returned to Cleveland and held several jobs, including cutting threads for 81mm mortar shells at LEMPCO, a munitions manufacturing facility, in 1944 during World War II. Their son was born in New York in 1945. Elsie graduated from Ohio University (cum laude) in 1947. Elzy graduated at the same time. Elzy rejoined the Army Air Corps service which then became the U.S. Air Force.

Elsie and Elzy traveled the northern hemisphere for the next 24 years while Elzy was transferred from location to location for his next duty stations. …

After Elzy retired from the Air Force in 1971, he and Elsie moved to Corvallis. Soon the couple became founding members of the Audubon Society of Corvallis, the Oregon Birding Association and Oregon Field Ornithologists. She and Elzy both obtained rehabilitation permits and worked with more than 100 species of orphaned and/or injured birds from hummingbirds to ospreys.

In 1976, Elsie initiated the Audubon Society of Corvallis Bluebird Trail in the Willamette Valley as a bicentennial project. She became a Master Bander in 1981 and learned how to use colored and numbered bands for unique identification from a distance. Elsie banded nestlings and rehabilitated any bluebirds in need. She documented every observation, including intra- and inter-species interactions, habitat and weather changes, breeding and social behavior, patterns of geographical movement, and causes of morbidity and mortality.

Elsie became known locally as the Bluebird Lady. She used her knowledge for public education, interfacing with countless organizations, conservation groups, school classes, scouts and garden clubs, inspiring others to protect the Western Bluebird and other cavity nesters. She recruited hundreds of volunteer monitors to watch for avian activity at or near their boxes and report back to her with their results. She said that she owed a debt of gratitude to those who participated, since she couldn’t have done it without them.

For more than 35 years, Elsie was tireless in her efforts to boost the population of Western Bluebirds. Only six nesting pairs were identified when Elsie started the Bluebird Trail. By the year 2000, 225 nest boxes were monitored and 559 bluebird chicks fledged. Helping to bring back the Western Bluebird became her mission and passion for the remainder of her life.

Between the late 1980’s and 2000, the data and details compiled by Elsie became nationally recognized for its value to the scientific community. Both singly and in collaboration with others, Elsie’s work was published in numerous journals, from The Bluebird Society newsletter to peer-reviewed ornithological works. She also contributed to, or was featured in, various books, articles, news and television features.

Read more, including her publication list, in her obituary.




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