Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cats and predation

Another 'cats kill birds' video. Do some cats kill birds? Undoubtedly - some birds kill birds too. The problem I think is that many people don't really understand how TNR works - it's not abandonment. It's not that the cats could then be 'rehomed'. They either live on the streets or they die.

As for the question of predation, honestly, most cats are pretty clumsy. the numbers that are thrown around - millions of birds killed - have never been substantiated. If they are such efficient killers, then why aren't we getting bird carcasses every day from the cats we care for?

I love birds - and have feeders out for them too, and I've never seen my neighbor's cats even get close to nabbing a bird.


calsifer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
calsifer said...

Not all cats care for bird flesh, not even community cats with no surety of the next meal. Take our area3 beauty, Mary.

She lives under tall beams where pigeons roost. Every so often, chicks would drop down to their deaths, but Mary doesn't even pay them any attention - we always find them intact, with no signs of kitty abuse. It may be Mary's fastidious and didn't fancy the thought of scavenging. But then, she doesn't really seem to have any interest in the pigeons milling around either, and have never tried to stalk them either.

Anyway, all our assumptions about her dietary preference and hunting ability were shot through recently.

One day about 3 months ago, a large pigeon chick, near to fledging stage dropped down but was unhurt. It eluded btmao's capture attempts and so she left after feeding Mary. To her surprise she found the young bird alive and well the next day. Mary tolerated the fledgling and continued to do so over the coming days until one day the fledgling was no longer seen. As far as we could determine, it had fledged and flown.

Looks like the fledgling continued to be cared for by its parents after its fall and had fledged successfully, with a "killer" for a neighbour. Don't forget that the fledging was the intruder and practically crashed Mary's party.

Dawn said...

My Mom had a bird years ago which used to share a food dish with the cats. They have photos of this somewhere around.

I'm always surprised that people are so quick to blame cats. Having lived in some different areas both in Singapore and the US, the number of birds I see in quieter, less built up areas, is far greater and more varied. If we keep chopping down trees, and building huge buildings, where are the birds supposed to go?

yskat said...

As Dawn probably know, the biggest bird killers in Singapore are not the cats, but the crow shooters and the pest controllers who poison pigeons. But very few people seem to care.

Anonymous said...

When cats hunt, people complain. When they don't hunt, people complain also. Animals don't live by human rules and expectations. Its stupid and pointless to vilify an animal for following it's natural instincts.

Anonymous said...

Yes D, full-page coloured photo of bird/cats feeding together was on next-to-last page of Asia Magazine of Jan or Feb 1976. If you are wondering what 2 cats together cld do, those cats were sterilised at PPD at Kg Java Rd ;p

Dawn said...

yskat - that's true, but I notice that some bird advocates don't seem particularly worried about crows or pigeons or starlings. They're considered not 'native' songbirds. One wonders if it's because they're not as cute and are accused of causing problems.

Anonymous said...

Just slap on the label of "invasive" species and it becomes okay to treat certain animals like garbage. I'd say it's because their 1.extremely common and 2.accused of displacing the more valuable "native" species. The Nature society protested the zoo's culling of wild birds during the H5N1 scare but were pacified when told that only "pest" species such as crows and mynahs would be culled! I declined to renew my membership after this.

Anonymous said...

Mynahs are smart birds and they are entertaining as well. i notice a few bald mynahs and a few have foot disformity. Mynahs are interesting birds despite its lack of colours & being "common".

Pigeons are cute too. I like to watch a fat clumsy one land - a disaster in action!! I have seen men catching pigeons and putting them in a tight 'woven' tube (like those on fruits to prevent bruising). Catchers have pigeon (female?) lure in a cage. Caught pigeons are for restaurants. Do call the police if you see such happenings. In some quiet places, a big net is set up to catch birds, it is rare to see that now.

There are many "common" birds and they deserve a place (& not in a bowl of soup or in a crow trap) in SG. Community cats too deserve to have that little space.

Anonymous said...


There are restaurants that buy pigeons? How true is this? And is this illegal? I have seen the owner of a bird shop doing this and when I asked them what they were doing they said they were going to release them elsewhere. Sounded dodgy but with no evidence it's not like I could do anything about it.

Dawn said...

I believe there are restaurants that serve pigeon soup.

Read this article about traps :-

Anonymous said...

Dammn...if I see people doing this in future I'll be sure to report them! It was that stupid serangoon north bird shop..haven't been there in a long time so I don't know if their still doing it

Dawn said...

Just checked out the actual legislation - pigeons may not be protected after all :-

Anonymous said...

I'm cannot be sure if pigeons were meant for restaurants-sorry for that statement. I came to this conclusion as caught pigeons were individually packed in "woven" plastic tube-like an expensive fruit.
Perhaps restaurants who serve pigeon soup have their supplies from special pigeon farms.

Dodo said...

"that's true, but I notice that some bird advocates don't seem particularly worried about crows or pigeons or starlings. They're considered not 'native' songbirds. One wonders if it's because they're not as cute and are accused of causing problems."

From the conservation point of view, the main concern is about populations and species, not individuals. Of course the ethical nature of such prioritization is debatable.

Dawn said...

Dodo - that's a good point. However, one can argue that many songbirds (beautiful as they are) are also not endangered, so why the bias towards them?

budak said...

what is wrong with wanting to protect the species that occur naturally in a habitat?

Dawn said...

Nothing - but I don't believe killing another species (invasive or not) is the solution. Where do we draw the line? If one (native) species threatens another (native) species, then which do we pick?

The problem often is that people think it's an either or dilema - ie one or the other must die. That's often a false dilema - for example, I don't believe birds ARE being killed out by cats.

Another question - how far back do you go before something is considered 'native'? Cats and birds have been around together for hundreds of years. If that's the case, what could be more 'intrusive' than humans? Surely our presence is the main cause of native species dying - but I think we don't want to face that.

budak said...

Personally, I do think the world would be better off with less humans.

That said, where cats are concerned, I suspect that apart from isolated islands, their presence in most habitats probably has an effect similar to that of other natural predators eradicated by man (e.g. wild cat species, other carnivores).

What troubles me is that some people here seem to prefer not doing anything or much at all, and using supposed uncertainty as a reason for inaction, when there is a need to manage or control non-native species that are causing the decline or extinction of species found naturally in a habitat. The issue of lethal-vs-non-lethal means is a related, but not identical issue, but one where I think so overwhelms the feelings of some such that they dismiss the conservation and biodiversity aspects altogether.

Dawn said...

Hi Budak, I don't think anyone would argue with conservation - my problem is with the killing.

I also think that we humans should take responsibility for our actions because we have undoubtedly changed the environment - probably for the worst. What does bother me is that in this case, shoddy 'science' is being used to show a causal link between bird decline and predation which I don't believe is true at all. So far the study that is most often quoted was actually done on a very small sample of cats and birds and then multiplied to give incredible numbers.

Also there seems to be an improper understanding of what TNRM actually does on the part of some bird advocates.

I understand that what you're saying is that you're worried people will not be interested in conservation but I think the opposite is true. For example, I think some people turn right off when they see that one species for example is being 'targeted' at the expense of another species.

Instead what is important is to find out what the actual problem is. For example, one thing that does kill lots of birds (and again the numbers of these are so great I don't know how they are extrapolated) is crashing into windows. I've seen (and heard) this happen to several birds around my house. Yet there is relatively little done to encourage people to take simple steps to stop this - put up strips, make sure the birds cannot see a path through the window. Instead there is so much noise about cats.

In another instance - if one speaks of competing species, there has been some evidence that some invasive species like the starlings are lowering the bluebird and purple martin population by taking over their nests. Another simple solution is to just get nest boxes with smaller holes. There is no need to then eradicate one species over the other.

You've mentioned that some people find it distasteful to their feelings to consider that one species may be impacting another species. I have to say I sometimes think that with some of the people who argue the opposite, that they seem to take it personally too that these invasive species are there at all. Some of the comments I've read by people about cats are frankly nothing short of vindictive. It's not a case of 'revenge' on non-native species. It's about finding a logical solution that works.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting it better then I ever could Dawn. I have nothing against the preservation of nature. However, I do have an issue with scapegoating and the strident vitriol that seems to go hand in hand with it.

budak said...

Strident vitriol? From some quarters perhaps (I can imagine some birdwatching groups).

As for me, I like both cats and birds (and am in the unexpected situation of having both at home, due to a budgie found lost in the carpark downstair). And accept that in most cases, feral (as opposed to community) cats are here to stay.

But I think it'd be good for both if animals right advocates don't dismiss conservation issues and ecological concerns either.

Dawn said...

budak - I like cats and birds too and would never like to lose either. That's what makes me upset to 'choose' one over another.

As you mentioned, I've been surprised by some very upset bird groups too - for example, if one native species (a hawk) eats another native species (a songbird), does it really make it better? As I've mentioned, I do feel pretty bad when I see the hawks come a-calling (and also because I really love the hawks!)

I like the author Sally Roth who mentioned there's nothing unusual about birds being killed in nature - she said what was unnatural was our setting out feeders. I think she made a good point.