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.
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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