Sunday, February 05, 2012

Bella Bagged a Bird

I lost another bird, a goldfinch this time, to one of the cats.  Watching her play with the poor, dead thing made me immensely unhappy and started me on a guilt cycle once again, especially remembering the angry, anonymous comment on my blog a few months ago when I was so upset about the number of birds Ranger was then catching.  Presumably a birder.

Then I got to thinking a bit more.  It's so easy to get mad at cats for catching and killing birds, but ultimately it's not cats that are responsible for the massive decline in bird populations.  It's people.  As a species ourselves, we destroy millions upon millions of acres of habitat to build shopping malls, homes and to plant crops. 

Even those few acres that could be managed to provide good habitat for other species, our yards, parks and landscapes, are usually planted with exotic species useless for insect food (insects being the primary bird food), saturated with insecticides to further decrease the insect populations, and then groomed to resemble sterile plastic.

If birders want to get mad about something, they should get mad about habitat loss...and then actually start doing something about it.  Habitat loss is the real "bogeyman" here, but working to stop that is much harder than just bitching about your neighbor's cat(s). 

So, folks, I challenge you to put your efforts where your hearts are.  Quit using insecticides.  Plant native plants.  Welcome the insects in your landscapes.  Leave some areas in your yard wild.  Quit worrying about "perfect" lawns.  Then we'll see if we need to be quite so obsessed with roaming pet cats.


Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

Our neighbors' cats sometimes get a bird in our garden (and leave it here for me to find.) I try to think of them as rounding out the ecosystem. The mountain lions of my little garden. I've also see the cats TRY to get a bird. They miss way more than they hit.

Melanie said...

I read an article last night in Hobby Farm magazine about planting a patch to invite beneficials into your garden. It included zinnias, nasturtians, marigolds, sunflowers, dill, fennel, parsely, butterfly weed, coneflowers, and several others. I usually get so busy buying periennials. .that these annuals don't play a huge role in my garden. .I have many of the periennials going. .and this year they should be getting big enough to do some good. I think in my new garden by the fence, I'll try to seed in a number of annuals to see how it will work out!!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Sherlock, As long as the birds are healthy and there aren't major hiding places for the cats near the feeders, I figure there's a "Darwin" effect. It's a weeding out of the gene pool. And you're exactly right - the cats miss way more than they hit.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Melanie, the perennials will bring in beneficials too, once they get big enough to start blooming. The big thing to remember is that insecticides (wasp spray, lawn chemicals, etc.) kill ALL insects, beneficials as well as "pests". I've always found that if I don't use sprays and other insecticides, the natural predators (especially insect predators) build up enough to keep the pests under control without much issue other than an occasional "ugly" period in a single species of plant.

I plant parsley every year just for the swallowtail caterpillars. (They'll feed on dill and fennel too.) It's a successful year, in my opinion, if it gets completely eaten up!

Have fun! I'm looking forward to hearing what you attract in!

Barbara Wilde said...

That's an interesting way of looking at it. I try to keep cats away from my garden using a sonic repeller, but that's more for the benefit of my plants rather than the birds.