It's that time of year again when baby birds are springing out of nests all over the country putting themselves in all sorts of danger. It is quite natural for numbers of young birds to fall victim to predation, that is part of nature and the very reason why our smaller garden birds have such large broods.
Unfortunately 'un-natural' predators are also lurking around the corner in the form of our domestic cats, and here in the Wildlife Enquiries team we have to deal with our fair share of moggie maulings which is always such a difficult phone call to receive. The UK is full of animal lovers and we can understand that people love their feline friends just as much as they treasure their garden birds.
Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Our gardens are increasingly becoming vital for the survival of some of our most endangered species, the red-listed House Sparrow, Starling and Song Thrush are all reliant on our gardens and the food, shelter, nesting opportunities and water that they provide. Their natural sites are under threat and we at the RSPB are committed to finding out why and helping to restore these but for now they need our gardens and fledgling survival needs to be as high as possible and the threat of natural predators is already out there.
By simply fitting your cat with a correctly fitted collar and bell combo you can be helping garden bird survival and potentially reducing predation by a third. In a UK survey by volunteer cat owners results showed that cats equipped with a bell returned 41 per cent fewer birds and 34 per cent fewer mammals than those with a plain collar. Those equipped with an electronic sonic device returned 51 per cent fewer birds and 38 per cent fewer mammals, compared with cats wearing a plain collar.
At the RSPB we also advise that feeders should be placed about 2m from dense vegetation, preventing surprise attacks from cats but giving birds easy access to cover. Place nest boxes where cats cannot get close, as they might prevent parent birds from getting to the box.
Birds are most active in the garden an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset, so it is helpful to regularly feed cats indoors at these times. If you are concerned about a baby bird in your garden, then remove your cat from the area and keep it indoors until the bird’s parents have moved the chick away.
We also have a very good section on our website about Cat Deterrents which can be accessed here - http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/gardening/unwantedvisitors/cats/catdeterrents.aspx and sell Cat Deterrents in our online shop which can be accessed here - http://shopping.rspb.org.uk/bird-food-and-feeding/protect-your-birds/catwatch-cat-deterrent.html
We hope this has gone some way to informing people a bit more about Cats and the problems they can cause our garden birds. It is important that people take this seriously and do all they can to help, we do not want to ruin the fun of cats but birds are our major concern and always will be.
I have Great Tits nesting in a nest box in my tree. A cat managed to get quite close to the box a few nights ago. Luckily i have a good ear for distress calls so averted disaster. The cat i found had been able to get into the tree via an over hanging branch in my neighbours garden which i promptly cut down along with a few others. This is just one of the advantages a cat will make use of, which is easily overlooked.