Cats killing millions of birds

October 18, 2017

This feral cat hunting down a galah is a familiar scene accross Australia.

More than one million native Australian birds are killed across the country by cats every day, new research shows.

The study, published in the journal Biological Conversation, estimates feral cats kill 316million birds a year, while pet cats kill 61million birds annually.

More than 99 per cent are native birds (373million each year).

‘‘Everyone knows that cats kill birds, but this study shows that, at a national level, the amount of predation is staggering, and is likely to be driving the ongoing decline of many species,’’ lead researcher John Woinarski, of Charles Darwin University, said.

Australian National University’s Sarah Legge said the researchers combined data from previous studies.

Assoc Prof Legge said it was the first study to look at the nationwide impact cats were having on Australia’s birds.

‘‘We also looked at the traits that were more likely to make a bird susceptible to cats,’’ she said.

Small-to-medium sized birds, birds that nest and hunt on the ground, and those found on remote islands or arid areas are most at risk of being killed by cats.

The scientists estimate there are about 11billion native birds across the country, suggesting cats kill about four per cent of the population annually.

‘‘We found records of cats killing 338 species of native birds, of which 71 were threatened species,’’ Assoc Prof Legge said.

‘‘That’s about 60 per cent of the threatened species in Australia.’’

Acting Threatened Species commissioner Sebastian Lang said the Federal Government had already sunk more than $30million into projects to reduce the feral threat.

‘‘Responsible pet owners can help reduce the impact of domestic cats by desexing them and keeping them indoors or in a cat run,’’ Mr Lang said.

‘‘These are great ways to protect our wildlife that can also improve the wellbeing of domestic cats.’’

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