The Photography of D L Ennis, and more!


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Let’s Give the Birds a Chance!

Image: by D L Ennis, American Robins- This nest was only about two feet from the ground; these Robin fledglings would be easy prey for a cat.

I love cats, I love all animals, but cats have a built-in instinct to hunt and it doesn’t matter if they are well fed they are still going to hunt and kill. No matter how much you love cats they are still one of the most efficient and persistent predator animals and studies have estimated that, pet cats alone, kill nearly a BILLION wild birds each year in North America! A BILLION!!!

There are about 66 million cats in the United States. 40 million are free to roam outside and as you can see this is not good news if you are a bird!

Domestic cats are not a natural part of the ecosystem and compete with native predators. Extensive studies show that approximately 60 to 70 percent of the wildlife cats kill is small mammals, 20 to 30 percent are birds, and up to 10 percent are amphibians, reptiles, and insects.

Image right: by D L Ennis, Fledgling Ruby-throated Hummingbird- This hummingbird nest was about six feet from the ground in an apple tree; again easy prey for a cat.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin coupled a four-year cat predation study with data from other studies, and predicted a range of values for the number of birds killed each year in the state. By estimating the number of free-ranging cats in rural areas, the number of kills per cat, and the proportion of birds killed, the researchers calculated that rural free-roaming cats kill at least 7.8 million birds and perhaps as many as 217 million birds a year in Wisconsin.

Cat Myths Debunked

Well-fed Cats Don’t Kill Birds…

Well-fed Cats Do Kill Birds: Well-fed cats kill birds and other wildlife because the hunting instinct is independent of the urge to eat. In one study, six cats were presented with a live small rat while eating their preferred food. All six cats stopped eating the food, killed the rat, and then resumed eating the food.

Cats with Bells on Their Collars Don’t Kill Birds…

Cats with Bells on Their Collars Do Kill Birds: Studies have shown that bells on collars are not effective in preventing cats from killing birds or other wildlife. Birds do not necessarily associate the sound of a bell with danger, and cats with bells can learn to silently stalk their prey. Bells offer no protection for helpless nestlings and fledglings.

Cats are not ultimately responsible for killing our native wildlife--people are. The only way to prevent domestic cat predation on wildlife is for owners to keep their cats indoors!

Here are some links to helpful and informational articles:

Cats and WildlifeA Conservation Dilemma-

Killer Kitties-

Cats Indoors-

Cats and garden birds - The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

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  • At Friday, 03 March, 2006, Blogger Leslie Shelor said…

    I can only speak from personal experience, but when I first came back to the farm here there were no birds. Some crows, because my grandfather fed them, but no songbirds of any kind. The people that lived here before me had eight dogs that killed every cat (and dog) that crossed their path. The farm was infested with rats, mice, voles and moles, but especially rats. No birds.

    I let my cats out and the birds came back. I think the rats and other vermin overan the little ecosystem here and decimated the bird population. Now things are back in balance and I have a thriving songbird population.
    This area has been settled a long time. Farmers have killed off all the natural predators, hawks, weasels, mink, fox. An population without predation isn't a healthy population. I'm not a biologist but I can figure that out myself. I know my healthy, well fed cats catch an occasional bird. But as a 'farmer' I know that there would be no way to do without them on our little piece of property, thanks to the loss of natural predators. The natural predators aren't going to come back easily. Not here, anyway. If they did I'd reconsider bringing the cats in (especially since they would become the prey). But for now they stay outside, sleeping on a shelf four feet from the birds' feeding station, with flocks of birds hovering around their heads.

  • At Friday, 03 March, 2006, Blogger D L Ennis said…

    "...population without predation isn't a healthy population." Very true! I agree that outdoor cats have a place on a farm. However, I think that your situation is the "exception," not the rule, and a billion birds a year is a lot of baby birds being killed. You believe in a balance of prey and predators and so do I, but do you realize that the vast majority of people have never given that idea a thought.

  • At Friday, 03 March, 2006, Blogger Leslie Shelor said…

    I think the big problem is that the every ecosystem is so out of balance, thanks, as you say, to people. Perhaps cats in a an enviroment where people have wiped out all the 'vermin' DO kill more birds than in an area like mine, where there is plenty of easier prey for the cats to exercise their natural instincts against. It's a lot easier to catch a mole than a bird. But the solution goes far beyond keeping cats indoors; animal populations are under too much stress for that to be anything but a temporary stop-gap.

  • At Friday, 03 March, 2006, Blogger D L Ennis said…

    But it is not difficult for a cat to kill fledglings in a nest two feet off of the ground;as I describe with the first photo.

  • At Friday, 03 March, 2006, Blogger Leslie Shelor said…

    And you don't think a rat, mink or fox wouldn't get those babies just as fast, or faster, if the cat wasn't around to get the rat, or if the farmers hadn't killed off the minks and foxes? Two feet off the ground isn't a good place for baby birds; maybe this particular Mama Robin's genes need to be selected out in favor of robins that nest higher in the bush!

  • At Friday, 03 March, 2006, Blogger D L Ennis said…

    Sure they could. Understand that this post was meant primarily for suburbia and town and city dwellers. I guess I should have made that clear and, as I said, your situation seems to be the exception to the rule.

    Read some of the articles that I have provided links to and you will see also that an indoor cat is a healthier cat.

    As I also said, I believe that there is a place for outdoor cats on a farm.

  • At Friday, 03 March, 2006, Blogger Leslie Shelor said…

    I read the articles. Trouble is, I can come up with the same number that will refute these about the health of cats (as well as my own experience after 40 years of cat ownership). It's not an easy issue; I agree that wildlife in the suburbs and towns are even more stressed than animals out here in the country. The stesses of town life on an outdoor cat are going to shorten his life, too. The issue to me is more about what humans are doing as a species to the environment. Look at the manicured lawns around town and think about bird habitats.

  • At Friday, 03 March, 2006, Blogger D L Ennis said…

    On that point, I will not argue!

  • At Friday, 03 March, 2006, Blogger Leslie Shelor said…

    I think we really both agree on the important points, honestly!

  • At Friday, 03 March, 2006, Blogger The MacBean Gene said…

    Urban envronments arn't healthy for people either.
    My wifes sister and her husband have built a heathy environment for birds in Baltimore city. It can be done but it takes the desire to do so.
    Our cat stays indoors.

  • At Saturday, 04 March, 2006, Blogger D L Ennis said…

    Desire is the key word here Dave!

  • At Monday, 06 March, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As someone who grew up in mostly rural settings (Blue Ridge Mountains of VA and NC, Upstate SC) but now lives in an suburban area (Arlington, VA), I can say the following:

    -Birds are as vulnerable as any other creature not at the top of the food chain, but birds are also predators.

    -My community is rife with birds of all kinds that are thriving despite myriad predators and dangers. I, frankly, worry more about the pet cats running loose around here. My cats stay indoors and dream about the birds that flutter just outside their reach on the other side of the window.

    I understand your point completely and am less riled up about it since you clarified that it was meant for suburban and urban dwellers.

    And, for the sake of disclosure, I am Leslie's cousin.

  • At Monday, 06 March, 2006, Blogger D L Ennis said…

    Thanks for you comment, jagosaurus.

  • At Wednesday, 28 June, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Quote: Look at the manicured lawns around town and think about bird habitats.

    This to me is an extremely important point. I live in Los Angeles where there are lots of shrubs and grass everywhere, even around office buildings. Birds come every spring, but I am just starting to enjoy them when wham, the "gardeners" come and whack everything back, including trees and shrubs, using the most awful automatic "grass trimmers" for everything but the trees, and lopping off tree branches indiscriminately. Since they do this right after the rainy season is over and the plants take a growth spurt (April-May), they decimate the bird population, nests and babies as well as adult birds. After their scourge, I usually find dead birds, nests, egg shells, etc., here and there... and this type of "control" is citywide, both in timing and implementation. I've spoken to building maintenance about it, but they just shrug. We really need to educate our city officials and business owners about how to the importance of our songbirds and how to protect them while providing a safe and pleasant environment for workers and city dwellers, but I don't know how to make anybody care.


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