Picture Courtesy: Stavrolo
More than one million native Australian birds are casualties of cats across the country every day, new research shows.
The study in science journal the Biological Conversation revealed feral cats are the main culprits, killing 316 birds, while pet cats kill 61 million in Australia every year.
More than 99 per cent of the casualties are native birds.
The research was undertaken by a team of leading Australian environmental scientists from the Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the National Science Programme, compiling evidence from over 200 separate studies.
Commissioner Sebastian Lang said the results were “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.
The strategy was first implemented in Western Australia’s Peel region in late 2015.
Mr Lang also said while the number of birds killed by pet cats was also high, he commended cat owners who contained their cats instead of letting them roam freely.
The study also revealed that the highest rates of cat predation on birds is on Australia’s islands in remote arid Australia, with the number of birds killed by cats each year reaching 330 per square kilometre.
The results are based on outcomes from 100 studies across Australia sampling cat density, and another set of nearly 100 studies assessing cat diet.
Charles Darwin University lead researcher Professor John Woinarski said it was 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,” Mr Woinarski said.
The research team also investigated in a second study which bird species are at most risk from cat predation.
They found records of cats killing 338 native bird species, which is almost half of Australia’s native bird species.
It 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,” Mr Woinarski said.