Anyone who has been paying attention, knows that Migratory Songbirds are in the fight of their life for survival. One of the most formidable foes for songbirds are domesticated cats, running at large, creeping up on the tired and helpless creatures as they try to nest, and bring into the world a few of their species. There is no end to the hazards that migratory birds face. From wind turbines to pesticides, wild animals along the migratory route, skyscrapers illuminating and confusing a safe passage for our avian creatures, songbirds do have to go the distance when attempting the most ancient of callings in their DNA. It’s truly remarkable what migratory songbirds undertake to try and make a home for their bird family.
Millions of songbirds annually suffer bloody death in the claws of domestic cats. Millions more collide with city skyscrapers or communications towers, or fly into the glass windows of suburban houses. A National Audubon Society report called “Common Birds in Decline,” for instance, shows that some widespread species generally thought to be secure have decreased in number as much as 80 percent since 1967, and the 19 others in the report have lost half their populations. The figures reflect an array of threats faced by birds throughout North America. (nationalgeographic.com)
Threats to songbirds in North America was highlighted by Smithsonian scientists in a report released in January 2013, indicating that free-ranging domestic cats kill far more birds than previously believed: between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds annually in the lower 48 states. A portion of the report reads ‘Cats in particular have earned a nasty reputation for themselves as blood thirsty killers of wildlife. They have been named among the top invasive species in the world. Cats have also earned credit for countless island extinctions. Arriving onto the virgin specks of land alongside sailors, the naive native fauna didn’t stand a chance against these clever, efficient killers.’ (http://www.smithsonianmag.com)
The report, based on 21 studies of cats and birds in the United States and Europe, showed that cat predation may well be the greatest source of human-related bird mortality in The United States.
Further to this, another grim picture is shared in a research paper in Nature Communications, that found between 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds lose their lives to cats each year in the United States alone. That’s billion. The authors of the report encourage a call to action through public policy ‘Our estimates should alert policy makers and the general public about the large magnitude of wildlife mortality caused by free-ranging cats.’
Dr. David Suzuki, iconic Canadian scientific researcher, champion for the natural world, and host of Nature of Things on CBC Television, highlighted the plight of songbirds in the documentary Songbird SOS on CBC TV March 19th,2015. (http://songbirdsos.com) The Canada Warbler has endured a 66% decline in numbers since 1966. It’s not looking good for songbirds.
The City of Sault Ste. Marie has a by-law ‘on the books’ that serves to define boundaries for cat owners to abide by.
THE CORPORATION OF THE CITY OF SAULT STE. MARIE BY-LAW 2000-49
5. CAT AT LARGE (a) Every owner of a cat must ensure that the cat, if it is unspayed or unneutered, whether pursuant to a breeder’s permit issued under this bylaw or otherwise, is not permitted to be running at large within the Municipality subject to section 5 (b). (b) No person shall suffer, allow or permit a cat under his or her control or of which he or she is the owner to trespass on any property unless permission is first obtained from the property owner or occupier.
6. IMPOUNDING & DESTRUCTION (1) A by-law enforcement officer may take into custody a cat which has been otherwise confined: (a) that is at large; (b) that is trespassing on a public place; or (c) that is trespassing on private property, upon request of the owner or occupier of the property or his or her representative. (2) A cat which is found running at large contrary to the provisions of this bylaw may be seized and impounded in the City pound.
9. PENALTY Any person who contravenes any of the provisions of this by-law is guilty of an offence and is liable to a penalty in accordance with the provisions of the Provincial Offences Act, as amended. 10. EFFECTIVE DATE This by-law comes into force on the date of its final passing. PASSED in Open Council this 6th day of March , 2000
So, why are there so many cats, feral and otherwise, roaming around ‘free as a bird’ in The Sault. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t see more and more cats moving unfettered through their day, scampering along their merry way.
How many do you see creeping around the neighbourhood, scaling a tree, moving in on an exhausted songbird trying to find safe haven for their babies. At this time of the year, it is especially important to be good stewards for the songbirds. Nests are being assembled and guarded by mating pairs. Eggs are being deposited and gently cared for by songbirds all over our District of Algoma, into the northern Boreal Forest. How lucky that we might be able to bear witness to a pair of robins nesting in the apple tree in a yard, or spot a red-breasted nuthatch hunkered down somewhere in the tangled grapevine, taking up the fight and flight for life.
From borealbirds.org ‘Some of the longest annual migrations on Earth involve boreal birds. The Hudsonian Godwit, for example, commonly breeds in the Mackenzie Delta and Hudson Bay Lowlands of northern Canada before migrating all the way down to the southern tip of South America. The Boreal Forest. We have that around here. Chances are this wee creature from the world of ornithology has landed somewhere in a forest near you.
It’s incumbent upon us as good citizens to help migratory birds. We are all stewards of this earth, and by extension, songbirds. Help them. Keep cats indoors, and out of the way of migrations, and nesting songbirds. There’s even a by-law in place to guide the sensibility of good citizenship.
“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” John James Audubon
Can you even imagine a world without songbirds. Or a spring when you didn’t relish in the first glimpse of a returning robin.