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Protect our native wildlife from domestic cats

Protect our native wildlife from domestic cats

The Auckland Regional Council (ARC) is urging cat owners to protect native birdlife as the nesting season begins.

Deputy Chair of the Parks and Heritage Committee Christine Rose says it’s important to protect native birds from predation by domestic cats.

“As the nesting and fledging season is upon us, both native and introduced birds, and particularly their young chicks, are vulnerable to predation by pet cats. So it’s important to be aware of this issue, especially to protect our native species,” she says.

“Birds bring beauty and life to the garden; they are natural pest controllers of aphids and caterpillars and can lead to a healthier back yard. However, they are at risk from cats which can wipe out entire nests in no time at all. In fact cats have wiped out entire bird species such as with the lighthouse keeper’s cat on Stephens Island, which killed the last remaining Stephen’s Island wren.

“While our suburban garden birds aren’t quite that rare, we encourage people to turn their own gardens into backyard islands of biodiversity, flourishing with plant and bird life. If you appreciate the love of a cat, please do what ever you can do ensure it can co-exist with birds,” Cr Rose says.

ARC Natural Heritage Team Leader Tim Lovegrove says cat owners might be able to prevent their cats from catching birds and chicks by attaching a bell to its collar.

“Birds have good hearing, so a bell might alert them when a cat is nearby. Also merely timing when your cat goes outside can greatly increase the safety of our native birdlife.

“Recent scientific studies have shown that it’s actually best to let your cat out at night, because this is when it will most likely catch rodents such as mice and rats. But if possible keep your cat in during the day when young native birds are being fed by their parents and learning how to fly,” Tim Lovegrove says.

Native birds have become accustomed to the suburban household garden and will often visit if there are native trees, food or safe roosting sites available says Cr Rose.

“It’s really easy to attract birds to your garden, especially if it is free of cats. Often you can enjoy birds’ company in close proximity to human habitation and living quarters if the birds can fossick and forage safely, where there is no risk of predation,” she says.

A local initiative to enhance birdlife in the Auckland region is the North-West Wildlink, which is a vision that links people with nature and aims to increase the health and connectivity of natural habitats across the Auckland region. The Wildlink principle also applies to household gardens, no matter how small or urban, which can be made more attractive to native birds.

“By planting native trees you will provide shelter, food and nesting places for our native birds. And by controlling when your cat goes outside you can reduce the risk of cats preying on native species and enhance the beautiful birdsong and beauty of your garden. Added to that is the knowledge that you are making the world a better place by helping our native species and biodiversity flourish,” Cr Rose says.

ENDS

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