Help a Mama Bird on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is coming up and more than just human moms need our love! The world is a tough place for a mama bird trying to raise nestlings with may predators looking for an easy snack. The mama bird cannot stay with her chicks at all times, she must go out for food and leave her babies defenseless. What can you do to help these hard-working mothers? Bring those cats inside!

Many chicks are altricial and require a lot of help from their parents, like this Barn Swallow chick. PC: Wayne Hartman via NestWatch

Though we all love our sassy yet cuddly feline friends, they are a non-native species and are excellent predators. The unfortunate truth of outdoor cats is that they are responsible for a massive amount of damage to bird populations. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service states that cats are the number one human-caused threat to birds, and  estimates that outdoor cats kill about 2.4 billion birds a year. And that doesn’t even count all the mammals, amphibians, and reptiles that are also affected. Unfortunately, this large death toll is not the cats’ fault. Humans are responsible for allowing cats to roam and live outdoors
which leads to this devastating impact.

Birds and their young are most vulnerable this time of year, as they are anchored to a certain location with their nests and young. Additionally, the babies will soon be fledging and testing out their wings for the first time! These fledglings are particularly vulnerable because they are not yet able to quickly escape and may be “grounded” for a portion of time.

So how can you reduce the impact of outdoor cats?

Keep your cat inside.

Windows provide a safe vantage point for an indoor cat to watch the world.

Even if your cat is mainly indoors and only ventures outside sometimes, they could still be hunting. A common misconception is that well-fed cats won’t hunt outside. However, cats are predators by nature and it is their instinct to strike if they see vulnerable prey. When allowed outdoors, cats are exposed to parasites and diseases – some transmissible to humans – as well as dangers like cars. Cats enjoy

experiencing the outdoors through windows, and some cat owners put bird feeders outside the window for feline entertainment! You can also provide safe and structured outdoor time…

 

 Create safe outdoor experiences!

Many cat owners have used leashes and “cat-ios” (or cat patios) to allow their cats to experience the great outdoors without threatening local wildlife. While some cats do not like being on a leash, many can and do enjoy it! You can also build or buy a simple outdoor enclosure to allow your cat to spend time outside without wandering. Habitat Network has a Pinterest page devoted to catio inspiration! This allows all the good experiences of being outside without the negative impact on wildlife.

Spay or neuter your cat.

Domesticated cats have been partners with humans for hundreds of years, and having them as pets is not the issue. In fact, most outdoor cats are those without owners, often referred to as “feral cats.” These cats, usually through no fault of their own, have been abandoned by humans and have reverted back to their “wild” nature. This is a simple product of overpopulation. With too many cats and not enough homes, this problem is increasing. By spaying and neutering your cats (and dogs!) and sharing this advice with others, you can do your part to reduce pet overpopulation and – in turn – reduce the predation of wildlife.

Even the most sturdy nest box is at risk without predator protection.

Add a predator guard to your nest box.

If you have a family living in a nest box you or a neighbor provided, consider adding a predator guard. These are inexpensive ways to reduce the likelihood that predators can access the nest box. This not only protects the birds from cats, but also snakes, raccoons, squirrels, and other predators! Even if you don’t have a cat, this is a great way to promote a safe nesting environment.

 

 

 

Do mama birds a favor this Mothers’ Day and keep your cats indoors to help keep them safe!

 

 

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