What’s the Biggest Reason Injured Baby Birds Are Brought to Our Wildlife Care Center Each Spring and Summer?

Wildlife face many human-caused threats such as habitat loss, window strikes, car collisions, poaching and lead poisoning. Bird Alliance of Oregon works to address all the large causes of bird declines with the majority of our focus going to protecting and restoring habitat. However, during baby bird season in our Wildlife Care Center, one threat in particular stands out: cats. Don’t get us wrong. We love cats. Many of us here at Bird Alliance of Oregon have indoor feline companions who lovingly snuggle up on our laps after work. But during baby bird season, when we get a call about an injured baby bird, it is all too frequently because it ended up in a cat’s mouth. In fact upwards of 40% of the approximately 3,000 wild animals we take in each year are “cat related:” caught by cat, orphaned by cats, or youngsters rescued from imminent predation by cats.

House Finches being fed at the Wildlife Care Center. Photo by Lauren Lark

When a baby bird fledges (leaves the nest), it isn’t immediately an expert flyer. For many bird species, they spend as much as a week or more on the ground under their parent’s supervision and care, building up their strength before they can take flight. It’s during those times that the fledglings are particularly vulnerable. If a cat happens upon one, it’s almost certainly a death sentence for the baby bird. And even if a cat’s guardian is there to stop the attack, many times it just takes one tooth puncture or bat of the paw to cause irreparable damage.

That’s why we encourage all cat guardians to protect both birds and cats by keeping cats indoors. Or, by safely allowing a cat outside by building a catio, an outdoor enclosure that allows your cat to bask in the sunshine and birdwatch without being a threat to birds. Click here for more information on our “Cats Safe at Home” Campaign developed in collaboration with our partners at the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon. And make sure to sign up for the 2018 Catio Tour!

And it’s not just for the safety of birds. People’s beloved feline companions face their own challenges as outdoor cats. Cars, disease, aggressive cats, coyotes, raccoons and poison can all be fatal for an outdoor kitty. With all those potential hazards it’s no wonder that an outdoor cat, on average, lives for only 2 to 5 years. An indoor cat who stays safe at home can live from 12 to 20 years.

Carol, one of the participants on our 2015 annual Catio Tour said safety was one of the biggest reasons she built her catio. She wanted her cats to enjoy her backyard in a controlled environment.

“I’ve had cats for probably fifteen or twenty years and I’ve lost at least two to coyotes, and I can’t stand it when I see them bring in birds so I figure it’s a win/win,” explained Carol. “They can’t get eaten up by coyotes and they can’t kill other little animals. And I feel like they are really safe.”

Domestic cats are predators, but they aren’t native to Oregon. When a cat becomes a part of our ecosystem by going outside, they create an imbalance. It’s a problem for both native predators and prey. Our feline companions create more competition for food for our native predators. And songbirds, small mammals, and amphibians are killed at far higher numbers when cats are in the area than if they were only hunted by wild, native predators.

Usually in our blogs, we share the story of one particular animal, but for this story, we wanted to show you just a few of the hundreds of baby birds who have been and will be brought in this season after being attacked by a cat.

Learn more about how you can protect your cat and our native birds by making one small change: bring your cat inside. Plus, register for our 2016 Catio Tour, a wonderful event that will give you the tools and inspiration to create your very own catio.

Baby Steller's Jay - Lauren Lark
Photo by Lauren Lark
Photo by Lauren Lark

Every year the Wildlife Care Center treats 3,000 injured or orphaned native animals. If you would like to make a donation to support our wildlife rehabilitation work at the Wildlife Care Center, click here.