Ornithologist and UW professor John Marzluff writes in his new book, “Welcome to Subirdia,” that the suburbs around Seattle provide habitat for a greater diversity of bird species than either the city or nearby forests. And after 12 years of study, he has some theories as to why.
John Marzluff bought two acres in suburbia 17 years ago. Marzluff and his wife, Colleen, are world-renowned wildlife researchers, and they purchased the forested tract in Snohomish County as a home for their nine sled dogs, their partners in previous research on raven behavior in the brutal Maine winter.
The dogs have passed to their reward, but Marzluff has turned his piece of suburbia into Subirdia, using knowledge gleaned from a life’s work with birds to turn his land into a haven.
The Marzluffs allow dead trees to stand — they’re visited by pileated woodpeckers, who dine on the termites within. (On one recent August day, Marzluff saw three of these majestic black, red and white birds.) Salmonberry hedges shelter Pacific wrens. Though the hum of the highway a block away is audible through the trees, the brush piles and feeders the Marzluffs have installed have attracted 60 bird species in all, including western tanagers, Pacific wrens, sparrows, towhees, juncos, Anna’s hummingbirds and owls, plus native red squirrels, Townsend’s chipmunks, tree frogs and coyotes.