Cats are Number One Threat to Birds

March 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

According to a report by the American Bird conservancy, cats are responsible for the deaths of between 500 million to one billion birds each year in the United States. These figures include birds killed by feral and domestic cats, and many cat owners have had the experience of being presented with a feathered ‘gift’ from their furry felines. Following a study, the results of which were presented in the Journal of Ornithology, research scientist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Peter Marra, confirms that cats wreak havoc on bird populations in both urban and suburban areas.

Although these studies only serve to confirm what bird-lovers have known all along, that cats are enemy number one to birds, having this confirmed by scientists has been helpful in dealing with the controversy of wind-turbines and bird deaths. With the growing demand for renewable and alternative energy sources, wind turbines are getting a lot of attention. The European Wind Energy Association held its annual event in Brussels, Belgium, on 14-17 March 2011, with up to 200 top speakers addressing the more than 8,000 visitors on various issues related to using wind to generate energy. It has been reported that up to 440,000 birds are killed annually by flying into wind turbines in the United States. While the figures seems high, when compared to the number of birds killed by domestic cats alone, it becomes clear that cats pose far more danger to birds than wind turbines do.

In the study conducted by Peter Marra and fellow scientific researchers, radio transmitters were attached to fledgling Gray Catbirds in an effort to document the factors that influenced their chances of survival. The results revealed that predators were responsible for up to 80 percent of deaths among the birds being monitored, with close to half of the predators being domestic cats. Directly related to the number of cats in the area, the fledglings had a survival rate of between 20 and 50 percent. It has been shown, especially in closed ecosystems such as islands, that cats play a significant role in declining bird populations, even hunting some bird species into extinction.

The bottom line is that the leading cause of bird deaths in the United States is collisions with buildings, windows and towers, with predators being the second most common cause. While wind turbines do lead to bird deaths, this needs to be seen in relation to the value of turbines as an alternative energy source – bearing in mind that the family cat is a far greater threat to bird populations.

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