Cats are killers

True, birds eat other birds, but that system is in balance, unlike with introduced cats

This letter is in response to Tony Markle’s letter in the May 7 edition of The NEWS (‘Birds kill birds’).

While he’s right that birds of prey kill other animals, including birds. The difference between native birds of prey and domestic and feral cats is that the cats were not native to North America but to Europe, Asia, and Africa. North American birds evolved over the millennia to deal with native predators, not with introduced cats.

In addition to natural threats, such as forest fires and birds of prey, native birds are subjected to a number of additional, human-caused gauntlets. For example, windows kill an estimated 300 million birds each year, communication towers seven million, high tension power lines 174 million, cars 60 million and poisons 72 million. But, according to a recent study in the journal Nature Communications, the ‘winner’ has to be house cats and feral cats, which kill 1.4-3.7 billion birds a year in the U.S. alone.

All these impacts are affecting songbird populations. Here in B.C., over the 20-year period 1989‒2009, many of our common songbird populations have declined, including those of the American Goldfinch, American Robin, Barn Swallow, Bewick’s Wren, and Dark-eyed Junco. Rufous Hummingbird populations (not a songbird) have declined by nearly 58 per cent.

While we’re not likely to do much about power lines and cars, the impacts to our native birds from cats can be significantly reduced through responsible cat ownership.

Neil Dawe