The cats v birds debate continues, with the news that a feline’s mere presence can cause birds’ deaths. Researchers at the University of Sheffield have found that the presence of a cat near a nest can cause a doubling in the stealing of eggs and nestlings by other predators because they’re alerted by the parent birds’ alarm calls.

Observing nearly 50 blackbird nests, they also found a reduction of up to a third in the amount of food brought to nestlings by the distracted parents. However, the question remains as to whether this distraction and predation really does affect bird populations.

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Cats are thought to kill 55 million young birds a year, according to RSPB figures, but many die as nestlings anyway, either soon after fledging or in their first winter due to natural predators, disease and food shortages-if they didn’t, Britain would be flooded with robins, blackbirds and many other species. Project leader Dr Karl Evans comments: ‘Cat predation may just substitute for other means of dying or it could cause additional deaths to those arising from natural factors. We simply don’t know which is correct.’

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  • Beverly Byrne

    I live in the country – very rural and beautiful.
    We’ve always had cats, in fact my first cat was given to me as a tiny kitten when I was two years old.

    Our current pair of tabby sisters have no interest whatsoever in killing birds, but they frequently leave dead mice and occasionally a pygmy shrew outside the back door. They don’t eat the prey – I think they bring them as presents for us!