Posts Tagged ‘birds’

Another Reason for Cats Indoors

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

I know I get a little “Soap Box-ish” when it comes to the American Bird Conservancy’s Cats Indoors campaign. This video is one of the reasons why. As a bird AND cat lover, I feel that I am 100% qualified to endorse ABC’s and the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (to name a couple) stand on domesticated cats being allowed to roam free. Check out this 32 second video to see why.

Singing With Abandon

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

About 2 dozen martins are frequenting our 2 racks that are up. The one center pole that holds our 2 aluminum houses is not raised due to a rope that came out of the pulley. Tomorrow we hope to rectify that and raise it also since I see a few birds looking. Down at it wondering why it isn’t up yet. I have learned a lesson from this though. When you lower your housing, you should still tie off your ropes

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Starlings and Fledgelings and Jumpers, OH MY!

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

So much news and I have really been negligent on the blog. My apologies but between helping customers of PurpleMartins-R-Us.com, 2 kids, a busy colony and a landscape project…I have been swamped!

Bad news is the BirdCam has turned out to be a huge disappointment this year. I invested more money and hired a “computer geek” who, in MY opinion, swindled me out of my money. I was very specific with what I wanted my streaming camera to be and instead ended up with what he felt was good enough. But enough said about that…

My landscaping project turned out pretty well. Nothing huge. Just redoing the front of the house which had become a snake haven. I moved 3 cubic yards of large egg rock (that’s about 3 tons worth) over the course of a week and achieved my goal of having the front be presentable. Many thanks to Lawrence over at http://www.butterfliesandwildlife.com/ who gave me some tips and ideas for the fountain. It is a disappearing fountain that recycles water as it flows down a stepped “mini river” of sorts. Though his is much more natural looking and longer, mine was created with basically stuff I already had laying around. A preformed pond liner, pond pump and hardware cloth. I only added the spitter from Lowes and the preformed stepped river portion was on CLEARANCE for $14! My husband admits it came out better than he thought it would. Of course, he is used to my projects…some of which turn out badly.
 


The purple martins are fledging all over the place. I think there are more youngsters flying about today than babies in nests. 2 skinny jumpers were found on the ground from a nest that I am sure the parents abandoned. Perhaps an Owl or Hawk got them. But I placed them in a low hanging gourd with youngsters in it. I could not lower the rack as so many nests were over 20 days old. For those that do not know, once nests are over 20 days old, babies can jump out during nest checks from fright. The PMCA recommends that you block off entrances to those nests that are over 2o days old…some say 22 days old by attaching a rag to a string then pulling out the rag once the housing is back up for a few minutes. Just wait 2 or 3 minutes for them to settle down and then pull the rag out. But since so most of my nest were over 20-24 days old, it just wasn’t possible. So I saw them begging and no one feeding them and watched helplessly until they jumped and gave them some Gatorade before sticking them in the new gourds. Remember, you can read about common purple martin emergencies and what to do at our store site PurpleMartins-R-Us.com.

Starlings took up residence in a flicker box located way to close to my house for the woodpeckers to be interested. But a pair of starlings did. Since no one else wanted the nest box, I let them nest and waited until they were incubating to catch them. I learned something very interesting about them. Once they decided to nest, I was hard pressed to see them both at the same time. They were very quiet, almost as if they knew that I was on to them. I did get a great pic of a starling nest. Very different from a martin nest. Of course, I could have pierced the eggs with a small sharp pin, addled (shook them VIGOROUSLY), or coated them with a thin coat of mineral oil, and let momma starling waste half a season.

In “Honor” of National Feral Cat Day…really?

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

As a cat lover and even former cat owner (indoors, thank you) I feel perfectly at peace talking about National Feral Cat Day and re-posting one of our former posts on Feral cats and their impact to bird and native wildlife population. I am saddened thinking about the millions of feral domestic animals (yes, cats) that are thrown out by humans. And again my thoughts go to the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of birds and other native wildlife who’s lives are not deemed as valuable by the people that enable these cat colonies. Read on…
Did you hear that? It is the sound of my soap box being pulled out of the closet and dusted off. I have been wanting to write about a very big pet peeve of mine for some time…so now that my birds are gone, here goes.

As a birder, it goes without saying that I am a conservationist. As a purple martin landlord, that just adds fuel to the fire and makes me even more pig headed when it comes to the house cat being outdoors. First off a few facts MUST be cleared up.

Fact #1 Cats are domesticated animals-not wild. Many people consider letting their cat room outside as an extension of the cats native environment. They consider it cruel to keep cats indoors. When actually the opposite is true. Cats were domesticated some 4,000 (four THOUSAND) years ago. They do not occur naturally anywhere. They have only been in North America since European Settlers arrived.

Fact#2 Cats hunt and kill whether or not they are hungry. Studies show that well fed cats actually kill MORE than feral cats. In other words they hunt for pleasure. The portion of the cats brain that is used to hunt is not the same part of the brain that registers hunger. Thus a cat will hunt even if it just ate a huge bowl of food. They hunt to kill, not necessarily to eat. Also neutering and spaying have no impact on a cats desire to hunt.

Fact#3 Studies have shown that Bells do not keep cats from killing. On the contrary bells may actually make cats more successful at hunting. Besides the fact that a bird does not necessarily associate the sound of a bell with danger, bells teach a cat how to hunt even more efficiently. The cat will learn how to move silently. And bells are of no help when a nest full of helpless nestlings is being stalked. Consider this product called the CatBib. Their website has a study that was conducted that shows an 81% decrease in the amount of BIRD KILLS! That is impressive. Unquestionably more effective than a bell this device allows the cat free movement, is soft, flexible and lightweight yet restricts a cats ability to stalk prey.

Fact#4 Cats kill HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of birds nationwide per year. That is no trivial number even though it is a low ball number. According to a post on Windstar.org that estimates over a BILLION birds are killed each year in the US alone. And looking at the math, that number may be conservative as well.

Follows is a sobering quote from www.Windstar.org :
The American Veterinary Medical Association estimate in 2007 there were 81,721,000 pet cats in the U.S.
According to Cat Fanciers, 43% of cat owners allow their pets to roam outside, that gives us: 35.1 million outdoor pet cats in the U.S. Add the number of feral and stray cats. numbers published by feral cat advocacy groups say there are between 60 to 100 million cats. Lets just take half that number say 81 million.

So that’s 81.7 million + 35.1 million = 116.8 million outdoor cats. More realistic might be a range of 95.1 to 135.1 million (based on possible feral range). But for arguments sake, lets just stick with 116.8 million cats for now.

How many birds killed by cats? According to a study in Michigan by Lepczyk et al, outdoor pet cats across an urban to rural gradient killed an average of .683 birds each week during the breeding season. If you can extrapolate that across the full year, that would be an average of 35.5 birds killed by each cat/each year. If you can use that figure for all outdoor cats, you get a calculation of 4.1 billion birds killed each year.

But maybe cats don’t kill birds at the same rate all year long, or at the same rate everywhere that they do in Michigan. But lets presume that the only kill birds during the breeding season (22 weeks in MI), that would still be 1.76 billion birds killed per year.

Another study in San Diego found each cat to kill an average of 15 birds per year (and 41 other small animals). If you multiply this number by the number of outdoor cats you get 1.75 billion birds killed per year. And that’s just in the U.S. and doesn’t take into account our migratory birds killed by cats in Canada or Latin America.”

Fact#5 Cats are responsible for the EXTINCTION of 33 bird species since the 1600′s. That is more bird species than any other cause, except habitat destruction. Currently there are dozens of seriously threatened birds that are still experiencing high levels of predation due to cats. Ground nesting birds, such as the Piping Plover, Least Tern and California Tern are even more at risk and several monitored nesting sites have been abandoned by these birds due to cats.


So you know all this data and you still feel it necessary to let your cat out. If that is the case, you are placing more value on your cats experiences outside than the animals that it will kill in its time outdoors.

 

If you think your cats rodent killing is a positive, think about this. Each mouse that a cat kills is decreasing the available food supply for native hawks, owls, snakes and other predator species.

If you believe TNR (Trap Neuter Release) programs work to decreasing the problems caused by feral cats, I urge you to visit TNR Reality Check. This site offers an eye opening reason why TNR programs are a huge dis-service to the community, environment and our birds. Most importantly it show why these TNR programs do NOT work.

So if bells don’t work, what can be done. The American Bird Conservancy runs a program called “Cats Indoors!” which I am a big supporter of. (I am available to give PowerPoint presentations of the “Cats Indoors!” programs to groups, BTW)

Don’t have a cat and want to make a difference? Re-Tweet this post and help inform birders and cat lovers alike.


Sources:

 

Coleman, Temple and Craven (1997). Facts on cats and wildlife: a conservation dilemma., USDA cooperative extension, University of Wisconsin. http://www.cnr.vt.edu/extension/fiw/wildlife/damage/Cats.pdf

TNR Reality Check

Winter, Linda and Wallace, George (2006) Impacts of Feral and Free-Ranging Cats on Bird Species of Conservation Concern

Cats In The News

Monday, March 21st, 2011

I know it is a sore subject with many. And believe it or not. I AM a cat lover. I had a cat many years ago named Elvis. He was an adopted Siamese mix and he was awesome. An indoor cat, he was friendly and loved cuddling. So, I am not “out for cats” in a bad way. I am however, a bird lover and I realize that cats are not a natural predator. They are an introduced species…a domesticated animal…that occurs nowhere else in nature, except where man has put it. Cats kill whether or not they are hungry or full. They hunt for pleasure and they kill VAST numbers of birds.

The New York Times has just released an article highlighting a new study by The Journal of Ornithology. The study tracked baby catbirds in Washington State and found that cats, hands down, were not only responsible for the most bird deaths but were actually driving local populations of birds away.

The American Bird Conservancy has long been against feral cat colonies but cat people continue to argue that either the science behind the research is wrong or that the effects of habitat destruction far outweigh any damages that a cute cuddly cat can inflict. No one can deny the effects that habitat destruction has had on birds or any animal, for that matter. But consider that in your neighborhood, where habitat destruction has already happened. Natural habitats have given way to suburbia…now why is it OK to continue to stand by and let innocent birds die?

Read this article and please consider keeping your cat indoors. If you must let your cat out I strongly suggest using a product called CatBibs on all outdoor cats. You can order them from CatGoods.com

Tree Swallows Galore

Monday, December 6th, 2010

With my backyard being a veritable desert of bird life lately, I was surprised to see hundreds if not thousand of tree swallows streaking westward at about 2:30 this afternoon. With their stark white bellies flashing they darted about all going towards the same common destination. I am not sure where but they were not pausing to eat. The shot straight and true.
With the holidays almost here I know that soon our purple martins will be starting their journey home. Shortly after New years, they always seem to show up on Florida’s west coast then within a few weeks they come home to me. It is really not that far away. Fall has been pretty boring with even my migratory visitors not staying for long. My Eastern Phoebe was only around a day or two. A pair of Sandhill Cranes frequently tempt fate by walking way too close to the road. Hopefully winter will treat the martins kindly.
For now the tree swallows will just have to do.

Stand Up Against TNR (Trap Neuter Release) of Cats

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

I found this awesome article by Rob Fergus, co-author of The Purple Martin that states the new aggressive stance against TNR programs by 10 conservation biologists in the latest issue of the journal Conservation Biology. Basically urging conservation biologists to take a strong stand against the establishment and maintenance of feral cat colonies (Trap-Neuter-Return (or Release) programs.
Read portions of the article HERE.

It is good to see conservationists finally sounding the trumpet and trying to take on some of these groups that cause more harm with their good intentions.

So what can you do to protect the birds in YOUR yard from cats while the politicians, PETA and others hack it out? Here are a few options.

cat trap

You can trap them yourself. Just minus the”Neuter and Release” part of the equation. Your neighbors may not appreciate you trapping “Fluffy”,  so this works better with feral cats. However nothing says keep your cat off my property better than a visit to the pound. The Collapsible Raccoon Trap is great for trapping cats.

You can discourage them from visiting your yard by making it cat unfriendly. Everyone knows that cats HATE water, so take advantage of that with this neighbor friendly alternative. The ScareCrow Motion Activated sprinkler shoots water out at the unsuspecting feline when the little darling decides to take a stroll through your herb garden to spread its Toxoplasmosis.

angry-dogYou can buy a dog that hates cats. So you may run into other problems like food and vet bills but still, it IS an option.

My Disclaimer: Please no hate mail. I actually am a cat lover…an indoor cat lover and my old cat “Elvis” was an indoor cat until the day he passed away at the age of 11. I just so happen to also be a bird lover and a conservationist. The definition of a Conservationist is “someone who works to protect the environment from destruction.” And I think studies have pretty much proved that the domestic cat is pretty destructive to wild NATIVE birds…ie: the environment. So thanks for your understanding.

Off Topic: My Baby Gouldian Finches

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

COMPLETELY off the subject but I had to share. In the last year I decided to get back into an old hobby of mine. I used to be a hobby breeder of finches. Silverbills, bronze wing mannikins, java rice and of course the prized Lady Gouldian finches.

Gouldians are so spectacularly colored that they almost come across as gawdy. But they are sweet and calm as far as finches go and don’t flutter about in a panic as some birds do. They often come up the the cage bars and get close to me to look carefully at my face as I talk to them.

Unfortunately the pair that lays fertile eggs is continuing to toss out freshly hatched young and I can’t seem to just watch nature take its course. So for the 3rd time I am “trying” to hand feed 2 baby finches. I estimate their chances at slim to none but I still persevere in feeding them about every hour.

Notice the distinctive marks on the mouth. These help the parents to locate the beaks in a dark nest.

They are so ugly they are cute. The little chirps they are starting to make, breaks my heart.

In this pic it is one day old and as of today they are 4 days old.

BIRDING COMES TO THE SMALL SCREEN

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Finally Adventure Birding comes to the small screen…After a successful season premiere on 2 well-known local networks, Birding Adventures TV will now be available in most TV households across the US!

Hosted by professional wildlife and birding guide, James Currie, BATV is a unique blend of adventure and information, making birdwatching refreshing, contemporary, interesting and exciting. The show has a strong conservation emphasis and highlights the importance and urgency of preserving the planet’s incredible birdlife. Featuring the quest for a rare Golden Bird each week, James is joined by birding and conservation experts from around the globe.

The first show on July 18th 2009 features the ocean wildlife of the Californian coast and the most range-restricted North American endemic bird, The Island Scrub-jay. Show 2 on the 25th July features the search for the critically endangered Sun Parakeet in Guyana. BATV will be carried every Saturday morning Prime-time from 7.30-8.00 am local time by the following Fox Sports Networks:

FS Arizona (Dish 415; Direct TV HD686)

FS Detroit (Dish 430, 5430; Direct TV 636, HD663)

FS Florida (Dish 423, 5423; Direct TV HD654)

FS Midwest (Dish 418, 5418; Direct TV HD671)

FS North (Dish 436; Direct TV HD668)

FS Ohio (Dish 425; Direct TV HD660)

FS South (Dish 420; Direct TV HD646)

FS Southwest (Dish 416, 5416; Direct TV HD676)

FS West (Dish 417; Direct TV HD692)

FS Wisconsin (Dish 436; Direct TV 669)

Other Fox Networks and affiliates have also picked up the show go to

www.locatetv.com or http://areyouwatchingthis.com/tv/programs/SH011093200000-Birding-Adventures/18015786 to find BATV in your area. Check your local cable provider channels for cable listings.

www.untamedsportstv.com) at the following days and times:

www.BirdingAdventures.com or email info@birdingadventures.com

Migration is in full swing

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Purple Martin LakeArt:copyright www.PurpleMartinArt.com-”PurpleMartin Lake”

My martins have been gone for over a month. Reading the posts from the Purple Martin Forums, as far north as Canada, the final martins are heading towards their premigratory roosts. Within a week or two, they will all be gone.

Down south I have noticed some other departures and some new arrivals. The Swallow tailed Kites have all left. They leave shortly after the martins do, also forming premigratory roosts. Though their numbers are far less, their size and beauty makes them no less inspiring and amazing to see. I have begun to notice large flocks of barn swallows feeding silently as they zip back and forth, fairly low to the ground. Their rust colored necks and bellies in varying shades of cream and rust are a dead give away. Around the house, 15 Miles away by the Super Target, and many points in between I see them in groups of 10 to 50 birds. I would guess there must be thousands of these birds spread out all over south Florida in such a fashion. I will have to wait for the first cold snap up north to bring the large flocks of Robins that come every year. I am fortunate to live near a large wetland preserve and there are always large numbers of birds that fly to and from the preserve. Robins always coming and going to the preserve, En Mass. Some other winter time visitors to my yard make illusive appearances such as the pair of Eastern Phoebes that come every winter.

I will shortly begin planning next season in earnest. Another pole, Predator protection, a bat house and more gourds of course. I strive to give my neighbors something to laugh at. If they only knew the joy these birds can bring.