Domestic cats don’t cause bird populations to decline says the RSPB

The RSPB say that domestic cats do not cause bird populations to decline. A bold statement that requires serious consideration. I remember addressing this issue a dozen years ago when the RSPB said the same thing then. For those who are unsure, the RSPB is the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. It is a charitable organisation in the UK which was founded in 1889. It is a very much respected charity.

They recognise that large numbers of birds are killed by domestic cats in the UK. I’m sure that they also recognise the fact that the same problem exists in other countries including the USA. But critically, they state that there is no clear scientific evidence that bird mortality caused by domestic cats is causing a decline in their population numbers.

Picture of stuffed cat and dead prey

Picture of stuffed cat and dead prey. This picture from a Dutch museum is unpleasant and its intention is to attack domestic cats and cat owners to force them to keep their cats on site. If you want to read more please click on the picture and you will be taken to another short page. Picture in public domain.

Their argument is partly based on scientific evidence from the Mammal Society. They have a study on the Wiley Online Library. It is called “Predation of wildlife by domestic cats in Great Britain”. It is dated May 27, 2003 and is therefore getting on for 20 years old.

Referring to this study they say that “cats may kill as many as 27 million birds every year in the UK. However, there is also evidence that cats tend to take weak or sickly garden birds. It is likely that most of the birds killed by cats would have died anyway from other causes before the next breeding season, so cats are unlikely to have a major impact on populations.”

The study referred to states that in 2003 there were approximately 9 million cats in the UK. They would have “brought home in the order of 27 million birds”. The number is large and the RSPB also state that millions of birds die naturally annually through other forms of predation, disease and starvation.

The RSPB is challenging the conventional viewpoint which is constantly disseminated by ornithologists and promoted by bird lovers that domestic cats decimate bird populations and drive them to the brink of extinction. The RSPB deny that this is the case.

However, the charity has been criticised by the Countryside Alliance in the UK. They state that the RSPB don’t want to upset their supporters, many of whom are cat lovers and cat caregivers. They donate to the charity and they don’t want to limit the donations by saying that cats kill too many birds. And the reason why the Countryside Alliance have suggested this is because the RSPB has consistently attacked the shooting of birds for entertainment. They want a clampdown on game shooting and the Countryside Alliance is a supporter of game shooting. To promote game shooting is one of the reasons for the existence of the Countryside Alliance.

An ultrasonic cat deterrent recommended by the RSPB

An ultrasonic cat deterrent recommended by the RSPB. Image from the RSPB.

And now they want the RSPB to carry out further studies which either disprove or support what the RSPB state about the predation of birds by domestic at UK. Of course, I am with the RSPB in their argument. I would also like to see further studies. All estimates on the predation of birds by cats are based upon quite small and localised studies, the numbers of which are extrapolated to cover the entire country. This is prone to error. There is nobody on this planet who is certain as to the level of predation of birds by cats at present. The information simply isn’t there. The problem is that the estimates are converted to fact by ornithologists and then the public read these so-called facts and start to believe in the numbers.

Below are some more articles on the predation of birds by cats.

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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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