Steve Scher talks with John Marzluff, wildlife scientist, about his new book, “Welcome to Subirdia :Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers and Other Wildlife.” The Crow expert has tagged thousands of birds and finds our feathered neighbors are mostly happy for our presence. We can even do more.
The Suburbs offer many species of birds many opportunities for feeding and breeding. Populations of a great variety of birds are finding homes by adapting to the changes we are bringing to the world. Our actions shape bird success and failure. There are adaptors, avoiders and exploiters among bird species. Humans could easily help expand bird habitat in our suburbs, cities and wild areas.
The University of Washington Professor heads UW’s Avian Conservation lab devoted to Wildlife Science. He is author or coauthor of more than 130 scientific papers and 5 books. He is well known for his study of crow and raven behavior around the world.
“Welcome to Subirdia” is a fact based scientific exploration of the birds and other wildlife living amongst us. Though written with the layman in mind, Marzluff’s book, with illustrations by PhD candidate Jack DeLap, is rich in details. Juncos have evolved to be less aggressive and better parents because of our bird feeders. Cooper’s hawks and Sharp-shinned hawks know that feeders mean food. Golf courses can play a critical role in habitat protection for salamanders, frogs and birds if managed carefully. Pileated woodpeckers turn out to be more amenable to suburbs than once thought.
What can individual homeowners do? Marzluff lays out 11 simple commandments. Shrink your lawn. Keep your cats inside (our free ranging feline friends kill one in ten wild birds). Make birds see your windows visible using decals and striping. Point your outdoor lights down. Put up nest boxes and feeders. Spare native predators, from owls to coyotes. Enliven many parts of your yard with hedges and clumps of shrubs to feed and shelter birds. Urge your neighborhood or town to create safe passage across roads and highways. Ensure connections between land and water. And finally, enjoy the fruits of your efforts. Get out and look at the wonders of the world you are helping to create.
I asked John about some of the books he has kept on his bookshelf, authors he still refers to. He admires the work of Alexander Skutch.