Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Welcome to Subirdia by John M. Marzluff

Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife is the result of many years of research into how wildlife adapts to human spaces. Although much of the research was conducted around Seattle, the general patterns discovered apply around the world, wherever cities are ringed with suburbs. There was initially controversy about the book as some assumed the author was making a case that suburbs could replace wilderness.

Marzluff classifies birds (and other wildlife) as avoiders, adapters, or exploiters, depending on how they respond to human-constructed environments. Avoiders need wildlife preserves if we want them to survive. “For adapters and exploiters the path is rather straightforward: find the feeder and avoid the feline.” Or, for wildlife that cannot fly, “[T]he city kills with a meow and a squealing of brakes.”

His proposed commandments for those who want wildlife to thrive in human spaces include reducing the amount of grass in yards, keeping cats indoors but leaving native predators alone, reducing light pollution at night, and enjoying nature where you live.

Welcome to Subirdia is full of fascinating observations and stories of wildlife and people told with humor and affection. Another such book, Hannah Holmes' Suburban Safari: a Year on the Lawn is structured by the seasons in her Portland, Maine back yard and covers a wider range of wildlife. City Birding: True Tales of Birds and Birdwatching in Unexpected Places is a collection of essays, for example, “Take Me to your Sewage Lagoon.” 

Review by Carolyn Caywood, retired from VBPL 

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