Browsing the archives for the Cats and Birds category

The (Willfully) Blind Leading the (Willfully) Blind

If the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative truly aims to “develop management strategies that are guided by sound science,” then its recently released White Paper on Feral and Free-ranging Domestic Cats (PDF) represents a glaring and inexcusable failure. Just two sentences into the three-page paper, the self-described “coalition of 102 non-governmental organizations, governmental agencies, and businesses” [...]


11 Signs of the American Bird Conservancy’s Desperate Struggle for Relevance

As most readers are undoubtedly aware, today is National Feral Cat Day. And at the risk of stating the obvious: NFCD has clearly become, to borrow a trendy phrase from social media, “a thing.” Now in its 14th year, there are hundreds of events going on around the country to mark the occasion.
All of which [...]


Tune in Sunday to Animal Wise Radio!

Tune in Sunday to Animal Wise Radio, when I’ll be on with hosts Mike Fry and Beth Nelson discussing a recently published paper declaring that “predation by house cats is probably the largest human-related source of bird mortality in Canada.”
For schedule, a list of local stations, or to listen online, check out the Animal Wise [...]


Research Brief: “Fearing the Feline”

Despite its dramatic-sounding conclusions, UK research into the “sub-lethal effects” of cats reveals very little about real-world predator-prey dynamics or their potential impact on bird populations.
Common blackbird. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Andreas Trepte.
“A new study from British scientists has documented for the first time, significant new impacts to birds from outdoor cats,” announced [...]


Audubon Editor Suspended “Pending Further Review”

It’s been a turbulent few days for Ted Williams. First, the editors at the Orlando Sentinel—who, it seems clear, were previously asleep at the switch—revised his op-ed, pulling the comment about Tylenol and changing his affiliation from “editor-at-large for Audubon magazine” to “independent column[ist] for Audubon magazine.” They also added a disclaimer: “His views do [...]


The American Bird Conservancy’s Campaign of Killing

“The only sure way to protect wildlife, cats and people is for domestic cats to be permanently removed from the outdoor environment,” argues American Bird Conservancy president George Fenwick in a Baltimore Sun op-ed published earlier this week.
“Trap-neuter-release programs that perpetuate the slaughter of wildlife and encourage the dumping of unwanted cats is [sic] a [...]


Special Guest: Walter Lamb

Readers who follow online discussions about free-roaming cats and TNR will likely recognize Walter Lamb’s name. His comments stand out in such forums for their well-articulated, insightful, and refreshingly rational quality. Walter brings a unique perspective to these discussions, too—a bird watcher who’s used TNR to manage his neighborhood’s stray, abandoned, and feral cats.

Walter [...]


American Bird Conservancy Calls for Killing of Cats

I don’t imagine USA Today has ever been accused of producing substantive journalism. And, judging from a worthless he-said/she-said-we-report-you-decide story in yesterday’s edition, that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
OK, not worthless, exactly. After all, American Bird Conservancy president George Fenwick finally went on record calling for the killing of free-roaming cats: “I detest the [...]


Kitty Cams and PR Scams

In a joint media release, the American Bird Conservancy and The Wildlife Society team up to misrepresent the results of a recent predation study, decrying the “ongoing slaughter of wildlife by outdoor cats.” Meanwhile the University of Georgia researcher contradicts her previous position that “cats aren’t as bad as biologists thought.”

“To be persuasive we must [...]


Collisions, Predation, and Bird Populations

Masts of the Rugby Radio Station transmitter, Warwickshire, England. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Sreejithk2000.

Recent research suggests that collisions with buildings and communication towers have no significant effect on bird populations. These findings raise additional questions about the often-implied connection between predation by free-roaming cats and declining bird numbers.

According to the [...]


12 Sparrows Stressing

Song Sparrow, Whitby, Ontario. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons and Mdf.

New study attempts to demonstrate how the presence of predators alone can reduce songbird reproduction by bombarding birds with round-the-clock audio recordings of predator noises. One co-author of the study goes further, attempting to implicate cats.

The purpose of scientific inquiry (am I wrong about this?) [...]


Devolution In the Classroom: Three Editions of F. Gill’s “Ornithology”

For more than 20 years now, Gill’s classic text has been required reading for ornithology students. While the book’s attention to conservation issues has expanded over its three editions, its treatment of the impact of cats on bird populations reflects an unsettling shift away from science.

The hoards of students descending upon college campuses this fall [...]


Fantasy Islands

Thirty-three: that’s how many species of birds have been driven to extinction by feral cats. At least.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve stumbled across references to this figure over the past couple years. Not once, however, have I seen more than one species (usually the Stephens Island Wren, its story having been twisted [...]


Video Games

Northern mockingbird. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Ken Thomas.
“I thought the cats probably really hammered them when they were fledglings,” said former University of Florida doctoral student Christine Stracey in a press release about her study of Northern mockingbirds, “but when they were in the nests, I didn’t really expect the cats to [...]


The Daily Show’s Take on the Cat-Bird Debate

By now, many—perhaps most—readers have already seen the segment of Monday night’s episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in which correspondent Aasif Mandvi satirized the cat-bird debate (described all too accurately, I’m afraid, by Mandvi as an “intractable war”).
Interviewed for the piece were American Bird Conservancy president George Fenwick and Alley Cat Allies [...]


Apocalypse Meow: A Brief Review

Although Nico Dauphine has yet to be suspended from her duties at the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center, it seems all the attention she’s received over the past week-and-a-half is making life rather uncomfortable for her supporters.
Last week, the National Zoo removed Dauphine’s online application for recruiting field assistants from its Website; this week, the University [...]


Nico Dauphine Update

Photo from an online application form Nico Dauphine was (until Tuesday) using to hire field assistants, whose duties include “assist[ing] citizen participants in deploying miniature collar-mounted cameras on their free-roaming pet domestic cats.”
Tuesday, while animal welfare organizations across the country were issuing statements condemning the alleged cruelty and urging justice in the case, Nico Dauphine’s [...]



Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
—Sir Walter Scott
Wind turbine near Walnut, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Bill Whittaker.
Two stories from New York Times writer Elisabeth Rosenthal caught my eye this past Monday. The first, “Tweety Was Right: Cats Are a Bird’s No. 1 Enemy”—the latest recounting of [...]


Catbirds, Cats, and Scapegoats

A Gray Catbird in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons and John Benson.
Once again, the Smithsonian has apparently put marketing (and perhaps politics, too) ahead of science, reviving a story first posted on the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s (SMBC) Website in October of last year (which has since been removed).

“Alarming number of fledgling, [...]


Exceptional Predator

Using Google to translate the page’s contents, it seems this bird—despite “mock[ing] the cat and with loud cries of diving at him from the branches of acacia”—was yet another one that got away.
In the third edition of his massive book Ornithology—“the classic text for the undergraduate ornithology course,” according to the description on—Frank Gill [...]