A new study by Australian journal The Conversation found that cats in Australia are killing more than 377 million birds a year – more than 1 million birds a day.
Of this number, feral cats – which cover nearly 99% of Australia – were responsible for the death of 316 million birds annually, and domestic cats were responsible for 61 million.
Of even more concern was the revelation that 99% of the birds being killed by cats are native. “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,” lead researcher Professor John Woinarski of Charles Darwin University says.
338 different species of native birds were found to be killed by cats, of which 71 were classified as threatened. “That’s about 60% of the threatened species in Australia,” says Sarah Legge, Associate Professor at the Australian National University.
Legge explains that the study also examined why some birds fall victim more than others. “We also looked at the traits that were more likely to make a bird susceptible to cats,” she says, detailing how birds that hunted and built nests on the ground, as well as small and medium sized birds were at the highest risk. Birds in dry areas also suffered more than others.
With an estimated 11 billion native birds present in Australia, the study concluded that approximately 4% of the population are killed by cats each year. To reduce this figure, the researchers suggest that all domestic cats wear collars with bells and residential properties fence their boundaries to keep feral cats out.