Welcome to Subirdia is the result of years of research on the subject of urban and suburban life by John M. Marzluff and graduate students. The results are fascinating and encouraging: There is more animal life in the city than we think, and there are a number of relatively simple steps that even already well-established cities can take to make cities more welcoming to wildlife and, therefore, better places for people as well.
The depth of the research is impressive. Marzluff and students tracked urban and suburban birds for years, working primarily in Seattle and other East-Coast cities but also traveling to European cities to see what kind of wildlife lived in the urban areas and what led to thriving and varied communities. Unlike many researchers who either ignore the city or who talk about what could be done in building future cities, Marzluff looks at cities as they are today, talks about what is working now, and makes practical suggestions for future modifications of the cities: It is highly unlikely that an already-established city will pull down existing housing to make room for a wildlife sanctuary, but businesses in that same city can modify their landscaping to be bird-friendly. Golf courses may not be going away, but they, too, can be re-landscaped. People can keep their cats inside, make food and water available for birds, and—if they own property—change their yards from all-grass to a more wildlife-friendly mix. There is hope for us and our cities yet.
While the focus is on birds, Marzluff also, as book’s full title–Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife–suggests spends some time writing about ways cities can, and in some cases have, adapted for other forms of wildlife. Again, most of the steps are entirely practical.
Jack Delap’s detailed black and white illustrations for each chapter are a pleasure to study, communicating a love of their subject.
Welcome to Subirdia is a must-read for anyone interested in urban ecology. It is not an easy read: Marzluff is painstaking about showing his research, which reassures the reader about his accuracy but also requires concentration. The time spent is worthwhile, but it means that this is not a book one carries about for odd moments; it is one for concentrated reading and, very likely, rereading.
Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife is scheduled for publication on September 30, 2014.
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: September 30, 2014