Feral cats kill 316 million birds and pet cats kill 61 million birds in Australia every year. This equates to cats killing more than 1 million Australian
birds every day. More than 99% of these casualties are native birds.
These are some of the findings of recently published research by a group of Australian environmental scientists.
The estimates are based on results from nearly 100 studies across the country, each sampling cat density, and another set of nearly 100 studies across the country that assessed cat diet.
Lead researcher Professor John Woinarski said that while previous research has looked at the impact cats are having on Australia’s mammals, this is the first nation-wide assessment of the impact of cats on Australia’s birds.
“Everyone knows that cats kill birds, but this study shows that, at a national level, the amount of predation is staggering, and is likely to be driving the ongoing decline of many species,” explains Professor Woinarski, from Charles Darwin University.
The study also found that the highest rates of cat predation on birds is on Australia’s islands and in remote arid Australia, where the number of birds killed by cats each year can reach 330 birds per square kilometre.
In a second study the research team also looked at which bird species are at most risk from cat predation. They found records of cats killing 338 native bird species – almost half of Australia’s native bird species. This included 71 threatened bird species.
“We found that the birds most likely to be killed by cats are medium sized birds, birds that nest and feed on the ground, and birds that occur on islands or in woodlands, grasslands and shrublands.”
“For Australian birds, cats are a long-standing, broad-scale and deeply entrenched problem that needs to be tackled more effectively” Professor Woinarski said.
Australia’s Acting Threatened Species Commissioner, Sebastian Lang, said “This evidence is extremely important, and of great concern.
“Our knowledge of the impacts of cats on threatened mammals was a major stimulus for our first-ever national Threatened Species Strategy, which prioritised actions to control feral cats,” Mr Lang said.
“This new research emphasises the need to continue working to reduce the impact of cats on our native biodiversity.
“The number of birds killed by pet cats is also high, but I would like to commend pet owners who are containing their cats instead of letting them roam freely,” Mr Lang said.
The research was undertaken by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the National Environmental Science Programme. The Hub is a collaboration of 10 leading Australian universities and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, to undertake research to support the recovery of Australia’s threatened species.
The work has been published in the science journal Biological Conservation.
Photos are available in dropbox to accompany this story. Photographers must be credited.
Jaana Dielenberg, TSR Hub Science Communication Manager, 0413 585 709 firstname.lastname@example.org
Top image: Cat with a native Pale Headed Rosella. Photo: Brisbane City Council CC
There are 27 different types of possums and gliders in Australia. They have a huge variety of sizes, shapes and appearances. We’ve compiled a profile on every species here. One quarter of our possums and gliders are listed as threatened under Australian environmental law. Help their conservation, be a citizen scientist: you can record sightings of possums from your local areas in the free 'CAUL Urban Wildlife App'.
Pet and feral cats together are killing over two billion reptiles, birds and mammals per year in Australia, and most of these animals are natives, according to a new book written by three of Australia’s leading environmental scientists. The book, "Cats in Australia: Companion and killer", compiles key findings from hundreds of studies and management experience about cats across Australia.
One million species threatened with extinction worldwide. That was the attention-grabbing headline that recently (and, sadly, briefly) captured the world’s attention, when the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services (IPBES) released its first global assessment of how the planet’s biodiversity is faring – and what that means for people.
The Alligator Rivers yellow chat is a small, bright yellow insectivorous bird of the Kakadu floodplains. This Endangered species is imperilled by habitat changes caused by altered fire regimes, buffalo and feral pigs, rising sea levels and the spread of weeds like prickly mimosa and introduced grasses. What has been happening to degrade these floodplains has been equally of concern to Traditional Owners as to yellow chat researchers.
The central purpose of the Threatened Species Recovery Hub is delivering research that is relevant for and useable by decision-makers, land managers and others responsible for recovering threatened species. Working with partners is vital if we’re to achieve this.