Won’t You Be My Neighbor?


How well do you know your neighbors? In a city as big as Philadelphia, there are always more folks to meet, but let’s talk about more than just Homo sapiens.

Maybe you know your local squirrels. Are they simply entertaining, or do they steal your tomatoes? Perhaps you hear the starlings singing from telephone lines and squabbling as they pick the scraps from chicken wings. House sparrows may wake you up this time of year with incessant “cheeps” at dawn. And have you noticed all the pigeons flying among the rooftops?

Opossums, raccoons and foxes might cross your path after dark, and if you’ve got a yard, deer could visit to eat your flowers. You might have a burrow beneath your storage shed dug by woodchucks, who, together with rabbits, help themselves to your lettuce sprouts.

And while some of our wild neighbors are born and raised here, plenty of others, in particular migratory birds, are passing through. They touch down on heroic journeys bridging habitats as far away as the Amazon rainforest and the boreal forests of Canada. They are guests in our city. How can we be good hosts?

May is a particularly good time to think about how we can make our city home to our wild neighbors. We can think about wildlife when we design our gardens. We can make sure our pets don’t kill or scare away birds. We can plant native plants that build the food chain from the bottom up.

Spring is upon us. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Illustration by Bryan Satalino.

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