As soon as I saw a review of Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife by John M. Marzluff in the Chicago Tribune in November, I knew I wanted to read it. I had noticed in the past couple of years, as I became more dedicated to bird watching, that we have a great number of bird species in our neighborhoods and parks. I saw goldfinches and cedar waxwings in our yard for the first time in 2014. It probably helps that Bonnie and I are adding bird-friendly plants to our yard annually. Still, I assumed that birds are more populous in the woods, prairies, and other environments that are more natural than the suburbs.
According to the author, many birds actually do quite well in Subirdia, as there is a wealth of food and shelter to be found. While plants that provide seeds, berries, and nectar draw some birds, others come to feast at bird feeders and water features. The diversity of plants also attract insects on which birds feed. If species can find safe nesting locations, the breeding is great for some, but not all birds in Subirdia.
There are concerns. As cities and their suburbs become more alike, they support the same species and some diversity is lost. Marzluff points out five birds that are found in abundance in many metropolitan area worldwide: rock pigeons, house sparrows, European starlings, mallards, and Canada geese. They may displace some native species, but the consequences are not always that simple.
The latter part of Welcome to Subirdia is about what individuals and communities can do to promote bird and other wildlife diversity. I am thinking of replacing even more of the lawn with tall grasses, thistles, and shrubs. I am also eager for the spring migration to see what other birds might come through our suburb.
Marzluff, John M. Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife. Yale University Press, 2014. 303p. ISBN 9780300197075.