John Marzluff

Saturday, March 7
4:00 to 6:00 PM at Lotusland

Welcome-to-Subirdia-book-coverJohn Marzluff is James W. Ridgeway Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington, where he teaches classes in ornithology, urban ecology, conservation and field research. His previous books include, In the Company of Crows and Ravens (with Tony Angell), Dog Days, Raven Nights (with his wife Colleen), and Gifts of the Crow (with Tony Angell). He is a Fellow of the American Ornithologist’s Union.

Welcome to Subirdia

Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife

We all know that human development is threatening our environment. Runoff pollutes our streams. Homes and businesses encroach on wilderness habitat. Energy use warms the planet. Too many species are in decline. And yet… for some of our most charismatic wild creatures, suburban and urban habitats offer surprising opportunities to thrive.

The garden opens at 2:30 so you have time to explore the garden and see the FLOCK: Birds on the Brink exhibition prior to the 4:00 PM presentation. Call 805.969.9990 for a Reservation. 

In Welcome to Subirdia, I reveal that our suburbs and city parks are often remarkably rich in bird diversity—holding more species than either wilderness areas or urban centers. In fact, suburbs may play a key role in preventing loss of species in the face of the dramatic disruptions of climate change and other human impacts. Welcome to Subirdia shows us how.

We are an integral part of an ecosystem, and our everyday actions affect the fabric of animal life that surrounds us. Drawing on examples from across the country and around the world—Kansas City, Seattle, New York, Arizona, New Zealand, Europe, Central America, Asia—I show how some birds are adapting and thriving in moderately urban ecosystems, often evolving before our eyes. Business parks and vacant lots are home to rare and fragile species. The diversity of plants and trees in our gardens and parks creates valuable habitat for many birds. Our birdfeeders, ornamental ponds and fountains, and nesting boxes bolster populations and help some species to flourish.

Just as we affect the birds around us, they shape our culture, commerce, and quality of life. When we make an effort to enhance bird habitat in our cities and towns, we cultivate communities that value nature, that are attractive and exciting places to live and work, and that improve the mental and physical health of our neighbors. Humans are now a distinctly urban species, and the fascinating information in Welcome to Subirdia is increasingly relevant as we think about our future on both local and global scales.

Of course, the news is not all good. Many birds cannot adapt to the pressures of human development. They retreat to our limited wilderness areas or become scarce. In tropical zones, people must make extra effort to ensure that their presence does not reduce diversity. And many other creatures—especially those that cannot fly—are more vulnerable than birds to urbanization.

But Welcome to Subirdia gives us something to celebrate. The herons in our urban streams, the barred owls whose shrieks wake us in our city neighborhoods, the woodpeckers that nest in our wooded parks, and the chickadees that entertain us at our birdfeeders can motivate us to seek a future filled with birds. The ways we manage our property, plan our towns, and think about the nonhuman residents of our ecosystems can make a difference for our children and grandchildren.

What You Can Do

By bearing the well-being of birds in mind as we develop and live in exurban, suburban, and urban environments, we can have a tremendous and lasting positive impact. Welcome to Subirdia identifies Ten Commandments for securing the future of birds and other wildlife among us.

  1. Do not covet your neighbor’s lawn. Devoting less space to mowed and cultivated lawn and more space to diverse plantings encourages bird diversity.
  2. Keep your cat indoors. Free-ranging cats kill one in ten wild birds.
  3. Make your windows more visible to birds. After death by cat, collision is the leading cause of preventable death among urban birds.
  4. Do not light the night sky. Birds, especially those that migrate at night, are attracted to the light of buildings. Many die colliding with towers, wires, windows, and walls.
  5. Provide food and nest boxes. Birdseed and shelter provided by people increases bird abundance by bolstering overwinter survival and reproduction.
  6. Do not kill native predators. Native predators cull the weak and overabundant, and reduce non-native predators that are more dangerous to birds. Avoid the use of rodent poison, which kills the hawks and owls that help control rodent populations.
  7. Foster diversity of habitats within cities and the natural distinction among cities. When we resist homogenization, respecting regional differences and cultivating distinct neighborhoods within each city, we support bird diversity.
  8. Create safe passage across roads and highways. A resilient ecosystem needs more than birds. Wildlife tunnels and bridges can make crossing roads less deadly for those that must crawl. Leaving spaces near highways unmowed can save eggs and nestlings. Converting roads to walking trails benefits all creatures, including people.
  9. Ensure functional connections between land and water. Many birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and insects require access to both land and water.
  10. Enjoy and bond with nature where you live and work! Conservation requires people to care about nature. Nurturing wildlife within human environments develops environmental ethics. We become better stewards of the planet when the natural world is a valued part of everyday life.

Advance Praise

“John Marzluff writes with authority and insight about the lives and habits of birds around us and suggests steps we can take to protect them in an increasingly hostile world.”—Peter Doherty, Nobel Laureate and author of Their Fate is Our Fate: How Birds Foretell Threats to Our Health and Our World

“Suburbs are increasingly an important factor affecting wildlife, especially birds—both negatively and positively. There is much that we can do for animals as ‘good neighbors’ that enriches their lives and ours. Nobody is more well-suited and qualified than John Marzluff to address this issue.”—Bernd Heinrich, author of Mind of the Raven

“I know of no other book that covers this topic. The synthesis is novel and powerful. . . . This is a unique, interesting, and important work.”—Steward Pickett, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

“A triumph! Everything you wanted to know about suburban birds—and more.”—Tim Birkhead, author of Bird Sense and Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin

“With enthusiasm, wit, and compelling scholarship, John Marzluff challenges us to reconsider a forgotten landscape. Welcome to Suburdia is more than entertaining—it will change the way you think about cities, nature, and your own backyard.”—Thor Hanson, author of Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle

“If you love nature, but feel guilty about owning a plot in the ‘burbs,’ or being a city denizen, take heart…You’ll come away with a bird’s appreciation of your own backyard. That (unmowed) lawn is a savannah! Those parkway trees, a forest. The birdbath, a pond…Marzluff’s book shines with insights and revelations into a natural world many of us live in but fail to see: Our own backyards.”

—Virginia Morell, author of Animal Wise: How We Know Animals Think and Feel

“John Marzluff has combined his experiences as an ornithologist, urban ecologist, and observer of nature into a very readable book about birds, humans, and our linked fates in a rapidly changing world.”—Stephen DeStefano, author of Coyote at the Kitchen Door: Living with Wildlife in Suburbia