Domestic Cats Do Not Decimate Bird Populations
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Some time ago I wrote a short article on the subject of false or unsubstantiated statements made by individuals who claimed that the domestic cat and feral cat were decimating the birds of Great Britain (or any other countries for that matter). There is a large group of people who, in disliking cats, like to find fault and one of the classic arguments is that the domestic cat ruthlessly kills native birds by the millions and to such an extent that whole populations are in jeopardy of being eradicated. The Australians are very good at this because they are very proud of their native wildlife but unfortunately they created a “feral cat problem”. In certain parts of the country they like to shoot feral cats(and its legal!). They fail to remind themselves that the biggest killer of wildlife is us through simple persecution - deliberate killing, deforestation, road kill, pollution and climate change to name a few examples.
In my earlier article entitled “How Feral Cats Affect Wildlife” I concluded that there were far too many wild assertions and not enough accurate science from which a considered, objective and accurate assessment could be made. In respect of birds I had always understood that cats prefer ground prey such a mice and that they relatively rarely preyed on birds as they were harder to catch – a simple practical reason. This mirrors wild cat behaviour. Animals will find the easiest route to survival, of course.
As it happens my thoughts have been supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the UK.
The first problem is that estimates of the number of wild animals killed by the domestic and feral cat, “vary significantly”. This has always been the case. That in itself makes accusations about the domestic cat very shallow. In short we don’t really know. And this is admitted by the RSPB (“estimates…vary significantly”)
However, what we do know is that there are no scientific assessments that tell us that predation by the cat is having an impact on bird populations in the UK. So says the premier authority on this matter in the UK.
The Mammal Society estimates that the cat kills about 275 million animals a year of which 55 million are birds. But there is evidence that cats prey on weak, sick and dying birds. It is natural selection in action and no one has ever criticised that as it is the model that created us. In short birds killed by cats would probably have died anyway so the cat’s intervention makes little or no difference.
Also, the RSPB says, the bird species that have undergone population declines such as the skylarks, tree sparrows and corn buntings are not hunted by feral and domestic cats. Blue tits are one of the most frequently caught birds yet their population has increased by 25% since 1966. Conversely, the house sparrow and starling, two birds preyed on by cats, have suffered a population decline of breeding birds but the reason is inconclusive.
The decline in population is caused by something else and it is most likely linked to human activity of one kind or another.
So lets be less hypocritical. Lets stop blaming the cat for something that we are probably doing.
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Domestic cats do not decimate bird populations -- Sources:
In mentioning Australia, the following fact should be noted. In the 1950’s in Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs where there were many market gardens, it was decided by the then powers that be (were) to bring in a number of Indian Mynah birds to control the garden pests which were spoiling the crops. Unfortunately, the Indian Mynah bird is a very aggressive bird, particularly towards other birds. Not only does it kill adult birds, but it destroys their eggs and takes over the nests. In many areas where there are plenty of Mynah birds, our lovely small and some not so small but slow moving and gentle native birds are virtually non-existent now. The Mynahs have spread from Victoria and are now all along the East Coast and moving across Australia very rapidly. It is these birds, not cats, which have done the most damage to our native birds. I don’t believe cats are the main problem with the bird life. Cats were here long before the Indian Mynah birds and we had plenty of the native birdlife as well. As an Australian myself, I would say quite categorically that Australia does appear to have a fair number of cat haters. And I still totally disagree with the stance on so called feral cats, and creating a genetically engineered disease which I doubt will have the ability to distinguish between the homeless cats which are a man made “problem” and our much loved companion animals.
Thank you, Pippa, for your very sensible and fair minded comment. Introducing the Mynah bird was a human act of folly by the look of it. Another example, then, of how human behavior not cat behavior kills birds.
I have four cats 2 of which are not hunters. They are pretty much house cats except they go outside to do their business. The two other cats are hunters and one goes out into some rolling hills adjacent to my house and from what I’ve observed, that cat brought back mice voels and rats. In the 20 years I’ve lived here I rarely see bird feathers in my yard showing that the cat had killed a bird a few times a year. I’m assuming that that my cats are eating rodents much more than birds. From what I’ve observed birds are much harder to catch,
For over 3 years now I have had 4 bird feeders in my yard including a humming bird feeder. I only see evidence of of bird kills in my yard a few times a year.
You are correct Harry. Thanks for supporting what the scientists say, namely that a cat’s natural first prey is a rodent and the bird comes down the list because they are harder to catch.
This story is obviously written by some idiot that has been given the gears about letting their cat/s outside .. either that ,, or someone who just totally doesn`t have a clue what they are talking about !!! I have three cats ,, I know what cats are like and what they want to do ,, I also feed birds .,, I have chased hunting cats from my yard many times ,, I have found mauled rabbits and squirrels ,, dead chipmunks .,, I see them running off with birds .. I have seen many with birds in their yaps .. This story writer needs to get out more often ,, or wake up to the facts !!! Cats dont want to do anything other than hunt and kill ,, this is their kind of “play” ,, and it is not suiting to most wild creatures .. It would be like us being occupied by some predatory being that might take one of us at any time and we always need to look over our shoulders .. And just because your little kitty behaves itself infront of you if you are outside with it doesnt mean it remains this way ,, I would bet anything that you could easily transform that cute little kitty into a stealthy killer as soon as it seen a potential victim … .. .
Hi Jeff. Only once in 30 years have I seen my cat bring in prey. Yes, cats are predators but their impact on wildlife is grossly exaggerated usually by bird conservationists and cat haters. I wrote the article and I am not an idiot but I am probably more enlightened than you and I certainly know more about cats than you. Also the article was based on a statement by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. You could not get a better authority. Thanks for visiting and sharing.
Sorry to break the news to you Jeff but you are the idiot, not Michael!
‘Cats don’t want to do anything other than hunt and kill’
Well how strange that all our past and present cats and all my cat loving friends and contacts have cats who want to do much more than hunt and kill.
I think you need to do some proper research and also think about who is really decimating the bird population, it won’t take much thinking about if you look in the mirror and see a human being, one of many over running this planet and destroying not only bird life but wild life too!
The number of birds and wild life killed by cats is miniscule in comparison with the number killed by the selfish, ever breeding and polluting human!
Thanks Ruth for putting him straight.