What’s the News: After tracking baby gray catbirds with miniature radio transmitters, biologists found that cats were by far the #1 bird killer: 47 percent of the birds died at the paws of pet and feral felines (out of 80 percent that were killed by predators in general). This echoes some biologists’ view that cats are a destructive, human-assisted invasive species: “Cats are way up there in terms of threats to birds — they are a formidable force in driving out native species,” said one of the authors of the study.
What’s the Context:
- Previous research suggested that cats kill around 1,000 times more birds than windmills do.
- With an estimated 500 million birds killed every year by cats, felines also cause far more deaths than more spectacular (and media-friendly) events, like the 2,000 bird carcasses that recently rained down on Arkansas.
- 80beats has covered the dangers of wind turbines to both bat and bird populations.
- And this link between cats and death shouldn’t be confused with Oscar the cat, who earned fame for his abilities to sniff out death before it happened.
Not So Fast: While cats were the biggest threat to birds in this study, the lead author notes that the biggest culprit for bird deaths over all is still building collisions.
Reference: Balogh, Anne L., Ryder, Thomas B., and Marra, Peter P. 2011. Population demography of Gray Catbirds in the suburban matrix: sources, sinks and domestic cats. Journal of Ornithology. DOI 10.1007/s10336-011-0648-7 (pdf)
Image: flickr / emilydickinsonridesabmx