Last modified: 18 May 2010
Image: Nigel Blake
It’ll be a tough few weeks if you’re a baby bird, relying on others for food and shelter and predators at every turn waiting for their chance to pounce.
But cats and birds can live harmoniously in our gardens this breeding season with a few simple measures, says the RSPB.
Baby birds in particular are vulnerable from predators like cats at this time of year, but with some minor interventions, the number of chicks killed can be minimised.
The wildlife charity is keen to tell cat owners what they can do to avoid chicks being caught in the next few weeks and is offering the following advice:
- Put a bell on the cat’s collar – an RSPB study shows that this can reduce predation of birds by 41%. The collar should have a quick release buckle and fitted properly
- Make sure cats are well fed and cared for. This may encourage them to stay close to home and be less likely to wander
- Keep your cats indoors around sunset and sunrise and after bad weather – birds are most vulnerable at these times as its when they are most likely to come out to feed.
-Take your cat indoors if a fledgling is in the garden, until its parents lead it away
-Avoid putting food on the ground for a few weeks where cats are known to catch birds. Use a bird table or higher ground where cats cannot reach it
- Place spiny plants such as holly or an uncomfortable surface around the base of the feeding station to prevent cats sitting underneath it
- Position nest boxes where cats cannot reach them or sit close to them (preventing the parents birds from getting to the box.
Lee Hollingsworth, RSPB Wildlife Adviser, says: “People are often surprised that the RSPB is not against owning cats and firmly believes that cats and garden birds can exist side by side quite comfortably with a bit of sensible pet ownership and taking a few simple measures.
“Baby birds are extremely vulnerable and it is very upsetting if you discover the remains of one that has been eaten by a cat so by fitting a bell, keeping them indoors for the most risky times of day and raising your feeding stations, you could avoid distress for all.”
Dianne Rogers, RSPB Member says: “I have a young cat that is extremely active and I also have two feeders, a water bath and a bird table which is full of all sorts of birds.
“Of course my cat is a hunter and does what comes naturally to him from time to time but if I try and feed him at dawn and dusk, this is inevitably followed by a sleep which is the other thing that comes naturally to him!
“It makes no difference to me or him, but could be the difference between life and death for the baby birds in my garden”
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