Birds in the wild have a bull’s-eye on their beaks
Linda Rodriguez McRobbie’s writes about the traumatic death of her family’s pet gerbil at the claws of the family cat but doesn’t mention the impact of pets, especially cats, on wildlife (“When pets kill,” Ideas, Nov. 28). Until recently, our suburban yard hosted generations of orioles that in most years nested in a large willow. One summer morning in our garden, I saw a fledgling oriole that was trying out its wings too close to the ground, where it was quickly killed by the neighbor’s cat. What bothered me the most about this incident was that this little bird had almost made it — its parents had flown thousands of miles north, established a territory, found a mate, scavenged nesting materials for their woven nest, built the nest, fed themselves and their offspring on a diminishing supply of insects, and protected their eggs and chicks from predation by crows, hawks, grackles, and jays, only to have their offspring killed by someone’s pet cat, an animal with no need to sustain itself, just a creature following its own instincts.
Estimates of birds killed by cats in the United States annually are in the billions.
That’s page 123, paragraph 2, in the animal ‘rulebook’
In “When pets kill,” Linda Rodriguez McRobbie expresses the sorrow of her pet cat killing her pet gerbil, and concludes that animals are “playing by a rulebook that we’re only beginning to understand.” But truthfully, given that non-native house and feral cats have been killing billions of wild birds in the United States each year for many years, it seems to me we understand the “rulebook” pretty well by now.