Feral and free roaming domestic cats pose a significant danger to birds and other wildlife but many people are unaware of this fact. It is estimated by many conservation groups in the United States and around the world, including the National Audubon Society, that domestic cats kill 1 to 3 billion birds in the United States every year.
Cats are popular pets. Americans own 90 million cats, and it is estimated that there are 60 to 100 million stray cats living in the United States. Cats have been named among the Top 100 Worst Invasive Species in the World, they are not a natural part of the North American Ecosystem. The domestication of the cat took place 9,000 years ago from the Near Eastern Wildcat. Since then, humans have brought domestic cats to most parts of the planet.
Cats hunt and consume most types of small and medium size animals, including birds, mammals, reptiles and insects. Since they are such skilled hunters, those of us who love birds need to do our part to help reduce the predation of wildlife and birds by feral and domestic outdoor cats.
Here is what you can do to help:
- If you own a cat, keep it indoors and encourage other cat owners to do the same. This is as much for the well-being and health of your cat as it is for wildlife. Many cats that are allowed to roam outside encounter feral cats and can catch diseases, or can be attacked and seriously hurt or killed. Your pet cat can also encounter other dangers, including cars, dogs, and people. Keeping your cat inside will ensure its safety and well-being.
- Use a collar and tag or a microchip to ID your cats in case they get outside and are lost.
- Do not feed unknown cats. Feeding cats will only encourage them to establish a presence and lead to an increase in their numbers. Instead, buy a Havahart or Tru-Catch humane cat trap, bait it with cat food, and take the cat to your local shelter. There, the cat will receive the care it needs and will have a chance to be adopted or reunited with its owner.
- Always spay and neuter your cats!
Cats are not responsible for the damage that they cause to the ecosystem by killing defenseless birds and other wildlife; humans are. Collectively, we need to do a better job protecting birds and wildlife from cat predation. Keeping your cats indoors, getting them spayed or neutered, and not feeding stray cats are the best way we can keep birds safe. Thank you for helping us protect our wildlife and keeping our cats safe and healthy!
Bird Friendly Coffee
Supermarket shelves are filled with coffee that claims to be environmentally friendly, but only coffee with the Bird Friendly Seal helps save vital habitat for migratory birds.
What makes Bird Friendly Coffee better? The Bird Friendly Seal from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center--this seal guarantees that all Bird Friendly Coffee is organic, and guarantees a variety of shade trees throughout the coffee plantation. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center standards are strict, making sure the "agroforests" are the right habitat for migratory birds. Producers of Bird Friendly Coffee must be recertified every three years to make sure they are meeting all of the requirements to be given the label of Bird Friendly.
All bird lovers would agree protecting vital habitats is critical for our planet's bird species, such as the Baltimore Oriole, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, and Chemung Valley Audubon's own "mascot," the Scarlet Tanager.
Chemung Valley Audubon would like to encourage all of our members and the public to buy and drink Bird Friendly Coffee. It is very easy to do because Birds and Beans brand Bird Friendly Coffee is sold locally at the Wild Birds Unlimited stores right in Big Flats and Ithaca, New York.
Climate change is real. The effects of climate change are happening now and continue to get worse. Audubon New York and the National Audubon Society are in agreement with the research and scientists that climate change has disrupted half of the world's species' breeding, distribution, abundance, and survival rates. One in six of the world's species are facing extinction because of climate change.
Since climate change is caused in part by humans' burning of stored carbon to produce energy, collectively we need to use our voice to encourage industry, state, and national government to help develop and use alternative energy sources that will minimize the effects of climate change.
Properly-sited wind power is an energy source that can greatly reduce our dependence on carbon-based energy that contributes to climate change. Chemung Valley Audubon Society supports Audubon New York's guidelines for the development and use of wind power.
- The proper siting and operation of wind farms and equipment, including the avoidance of major migratory bird pathways, and consulting the best science to minimize death and damage to birds and wildlife
- Development of new technology that minimizes harm and death to birds and wildlife.
- Mitigation of habitat and wildlife impacts with conservation.
- Strong enforcement of laws that protect wildlife: The Endangered Species Act, The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
Wind developers and permitting agencies should consult with wildlife experts, including National Audubon Society and Audubon state and local chapters to help inform any windmill siting decisions so that together we can work to help reduce harm and death to wildlife and birds. Chemung Valley Audubon Society encourages its members to contact their local and state representatives to ask them to make sure wildlife and birds are considered when all energy decisions are being made including Wind Power. Our collective voice can make a difference.
The Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) was launched in 1991 in Toronto, the first city in the world to address the problem of light pollution in urban cities and the effect it has on birds. Many birds migrate after the sun sets using starlight and moonlight as a guide, but as our society has advanced, so has our penchant for evening lights. Bird collisions with windows happen year-round and at any type of building--commercial or residential. It is estimated that at least 365 million and as many as 988 million birds die annually across the United States by colliding with windows and other structures. These deaths from collisions with windows and other man-made structures are the second-largest man-made threat to birds after habitat loss.
When confronted with a pane of glass, most bird species are vulnerable because they don't perceive the glass as a barrier. Glass is transparent and reflective. Birds are drawn by the reflection of sky or nearby trees in the panes. When tricked by this illusion, birds fly right into windows and often fatally knock themselves out. Glass is killing the healthiest and weakest birds alike, and to make matters worse, many of the victims are migrating songbirds that are already in decline due to habitat loss and other factors. Some good news to report is that many cities are participating in FLAP. Cities that take part in FLAP turn off bright exterior lighting and unnecessary interior lighting of high rise buildings between 11:00 p.m. and dawn during the spring and fall migration season. Since many bird species migrate at night, this action helps save birds.
Audubon and its partner organizations organize Lights Out campaigns to encourage everybody to turn off their lights at night and save the birds. These programs don't just benefit the birds! Energy conservation is a daily struggle for all of us, and the Lights Out program helps to promote responsible energy usage. Every year, more cities participate in FLAP. In Chicago, every building taller than 60 stories turns off its lights in the evening so that migrating birds are able to fly more safely, and property owners save on electricity costs. In New York, over 90 buildings, including the Rockefeller, the Chrysler Building, and Time Warner Center, keep evening lighting to a minimum. Individual homeowners can do their part to keep birds safe from deadly window strikes, too:
- If possible, use glass with special films, fritting, or whitewash to make them less visible to birds.
- Hang reflective ribbons, chimes, or other material outside of windows. This will catch the bird's eye before a collision happens.
- Place bird feeders away from windows.
- Avoid placing interior plants next to windows where they could lure birds into a collision with the window.
- Reduce your use of interior lighting as often as possible.
- Draw the drapes or blinds on windows as often as possible.
Growing awareness and action on this problem holds the key to the reduction of these unnecessary bird deaths. Educating our members and the broader public about all of the threats to birds is a large part of what Chemung Valley Audubon Society strives to do. If we all do our part we can make the world safer for the birds we love. "I think that Lights Out is really a win-win sort of solution," says Adriana Palmer, the coordinator of New York City Audubon's Project Safe Flight. "It's a clear benefit to the birds, but for the buildings, any time they are turning off lights, they are also saving energy and money."