A few years ago, I stopped feeding the birds in my yard. Why on earth did I do that? Did I lose the lifelong love of birds that my parents had instilled in me? Of course not! The short version is that after a few years of faithfully filling my feeders, I was horrified to discover that I had inadvertently created a chicken hawk feeding station.
Because I love the little birds, I took my feeders down and packed them away. It was a sad day because I had been feeding the birds for years. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the birds still seemed to be thriving.
As it turned out, all those years of organic gardening had an unanticipated fringe benefit. My yard had become a living bird feeder, eh?
Admittedly, I am never going to be a fan of chicken hawks. But here in the real world, they are not the only predators that endanger the birds. Believe it or not, bullfrogs can catch little hummers and even sparrows. Of course, anyone with a pond knows that bullfrogs often fall prey to the lovely blue herons that stop by for a snack.
When I first moved out here, I could count the number of mailboxes on our road without running out of fingers. Now there is a big fancy subdivision up the hill behind me and we have several site boxes instead of mailboxes.
Each and every time a lot is cleared for building, bird habitat is destroyed. The protective cover that can shelter smaller species from predators is gone, eh?
Each and every time that a pristine green lawn takes the place of a natural meadow, more wildlife habitat is destroyed. The birds that naturally nest low to the ground have no place to live, eh?
Each and every time that more homes are built out here, there is at least one more gas burning vehicle … usually at least an SUV if not a big truck… that is running the roads.
And each and every time that new homes with south facing windows are built, birds are killed. It does not matter what size or species or age or sex. Conservative estimates place the annual number of window kills in Canada between 16 million and 42 million annually. The problem is compounded for any of our beloved migrating birds who fly south each winter. Conservative estimates for annual window kills in the US start at 98 million, eh?
And then of course this year, bird lovers in Nova Scotia were asked to put their feeders away to help stave off the spread of a deadly virus that was decimating the bird population.
In other words, it is the height of high drama to suggest that cats are the only predators stalking our birds. Nor has it ever been scientifically supported in any accurate way.
Do my cats go outside? Not anymore. Not for years actually. Why? Well …. as our local wildlife habitats have been converted to human housing, there is much more wildlife in my own yard. With three ponds and organic gardens, this has become a popular spot, eh?
So the short answer is that there are really too many predators out there for my cats to be safe outside. Many of those, like the lovely owls and eagles and hawks, I might add are actually birds themselves.
Sadly this is not a new discussion. Cat advocates have been talking about this for years.
Nor is there any conceivable end in sight it would seem. The Ecology action center .. who really ought to know better than most what effect humans have had on habitat and climate change for birds … have been stirring the pot by hosting this seminar
What time is it? It is way past time to stop blaming the cats and start accepting the role we humans have played in decimating wildlife populations.