BELLA VISTA – There’s a slight menace in Jim Janssen’s voice when he talks of how English sparrows come to take over the native North American bluebird’s nesting area.
“They wait until the bluebirds make their nest, then they come inside and snap the head of the mother. I don’t have any pity for them,” he says.
The comment is unexpected from the smiling Janssen, whose house is painted light blue and sports a back porch lined with birdhouses. He is president of the Bella Vista Bluebird Society, which as successfully increased the area’s bluebird population to more than 26, 376 birds since its inception in 1981.
“The bluebird is such a beautiful bird,” he says.
Last year, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution presented Janssen with its Conservation Award. He led the Bella Vista Bluebird Society in installing mroe than 400 bluebird houses on Bella Vista’s seven golf courses and encouraged homeowners to install many on their own,
Janssen gained an interest in birds from his brother, Robert Jansse, an amateur ornithologist who has written five bird books and has a contract with the state of Minnesota to catalog the birds in the state’s natural parks. Jim Janssen says he became interested in bluebirds mostly by chance. When he moved in to his home in Bella Vista, his next-door neighbor was president of the society.
“They had a bluebird meeting in ’95 that for some reason I couldn’t attend, but when I came back, I was elected president,” he says.
Bella Vista became the retirement sport for him and his wife after Janssen’s 50 years as a salesman for the former Minneapolis-Moline, now White Motor Co., a large tractor and machinery producer based in Minnesota. His home includes a room of collectibles dedicated to the company, including the first color advertisements the comapny made in the 1930s.
Janssen has traveled to every state in the union and most of Canada, Mexico and Australia. He’s planning a trip to Antarctica with his son.
After 69 years of following life’s whim, Janssen says the bluebirds help him stay grounded.
“Once you get started and you can see the babies being born, it’s the idea that you’re promoting” the creation of life, he says.
– Arkansas Democrat Gazette, August 2006