BluebirdersBluebirding Giant: Dick Peterson (1919-2000)

Bluebirding Giant: Dick Peterson (1919-2000)

Peterson nestbox
Peterson nestbox

Dick Peterson died on May 4, 2000 at the age of 81. His friend and colleague Dorene Scriven reported that a pair of bluebirds appeared out of nowhere to fly above his grave, during the ceremony at Fort Snelling National Cemetery near Minneapolis.  He was co-founder of the Minnesota Bluebird Recovery Program (BBRP.)

By the year 2000, the Bluebird Recovery Program had supplied more than 12,000 people with copies of plans for the Peterson nestbox, and David Ahlgren had shipped out over 60,000 nestboxes or kits. (Source: Bluebird, Vol.22, No.3, Summer 2000).

Dick Peterson photo from Star Tribune obituary
Photo from his obituary in the Star Tribune

More than 60,000 Peterson boxes have been distributed Ahlgren Construction, in Minnesota, and countless more have been distributed by others, like Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania  (BSP) member Gene McDowell and his Avon Grove Lions’ Club.

Dick was a humble and sincere inventor, furniture maker, photographer and author.  Like Althea Sherman, he was a self-taught naturalist.  Born in Clarrisa, MN, he left school in the eight grade to work on a dairy farm, but ultimately got his GRE.

“It was all done from field observations…He was a tinkerer.  His mind nevr turned off.” Mary Ellen Vetter

Dick had a way of making people feel they knew him well. He had an unselfish manner about him and would gladly share his knowledge with anyone, no strings attached. He never charged a single dime for the thousands of nestboxes and traps he made and issued to folks who could not build their own or had no money to purchase them from other builders of such.” – Ted Tempest of Minnesota (from Worth Noting at

He was a “We” person, not an “I” person, for he knew it would take the combined work of many to accomplish the Bluebird Recovery as we know it.” –

“Dick was a kind man who put Bluebirds first. He worked continuously to improve the chances for Bluebirds to recover and thrive and was always open to suggestions from others.  He set a high standard to follow.” – Diane Barbin

His philosophy was to leave more than you take.” – Dick’s daughter, Mary Rapke

Anyone who would like to send a tribute to Dick in this way, please write them to the Bluebird Recovery Program, P.O. Box 3801, Minneapolis, MN 55403 about the Dick Peterson Memorial Fund.

Based on a blog post on Worth Noting 5th May 2000 by Andrew W. Barbin and Dick’s obituary in the Star Tribune at


Dick was a generous man and a tireless designer and innovator. While he felt that his box design was best, he welcomed the Gilbertson box and worked well with Steve Gilbertson.  He was always ready to take an idea out to his work shop and come back with a product.  He could have been a millionaire if he wanted to be one, but he never wanted money for his work or ideas.
– Dorene Scriven

Obituary Dick Peterson


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