7 Things You Can Do to Help Songbirds If You’ve Just Watched The Messenger

By Hugh Powell
November 25, 2015
Black-throated blue warbler in flight in The Messenger. Black-throated Blue Warbler in flight. Watch the trailer and read our review of The Messenger.
New self-paced course: Learn How to Identify Bird Songs, Click to Learn More

The Messenger is a 2015 documentary about the problems that migratory songbirds face and the scientists that are trying to help them. The movie is fascinating and beautifully filmed (read our review), but one thing it doesn’t do is address what can be done about the problems.

It’s an intentional omission on the part of the filmmakers—as if they’re saying that the first step is understanding the full scope of what’s wrong, and that’s enough to take up an entire movie. As it turns out, good science can only take us so far. The actions of the general public are also a vital component of change, and it’s through collective effort that we’ll make the biggest difference.

So what can regular folks like us do? Lots. We teamed up with The Messenger‘s filmmakers to bring you this short list of ideas:

1. Make Windows Safer, Day and Night. Some of The Messenger‘s most powerful images are of migrant birds killed by window strikes. Volunteers in Toronto arrange hundreds of brilliantly colored fallen birds—as tiny as hummingbirds and as large as ducks—as stark evidence of the toll that one city’s buildings can take. The toll in North America is estimated at 624 million birds per year, according to the 2014 State of the Birds Report. Although skyscrapers are the most obvious problem, the sheer number of small single-family buildings mean window safety at home is just as important. The issue has two parts: at night, lighted windows attract and kill migrating birds; in daylight windows reflect foliage or sky, encouraging birds to fly into them. Toronto’s Fatal Light Awareness Program can help with the goal of turning out lights at night; our 2015 article Glass Action describes cutting-edge ways to make windows safer for birds.

Bird-Friendly coffee certified by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (from retailers like Birds and Beans) is one of the most direct ways you can fund habitat conservation in the tropics while supporting local economies.Look out for Bird-Friendly coffee certified by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.

2. Brew a Bird-Friendly Roast. The film’s camera crews travel to Costa Rica, where many of our forest birds spend winters in semi-open habitats. Shade coffee plantations are one such habitat, in which local people can raise a high-value crop while offering great habitat for birds. Migrants such as orioles, tanagers, and warblers—including the strongly declining Golden-winged Warbler—thrive alongside spectacular tropical residents such as toucans, motmots, and fantastical hummingbirds like the White-necked Jacobin. Buying Bird-Friendly coffee certified by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (from retailers like Birds and Beans) is one of the most direct ways you can fund habitat conservation in the tropics while supporting local economies. Looking for Bird-Friendly coffee instead of brands with a more generic “shade grown” label ensures that the product is organic, Fair Trade, and conforms to the highest standards of habitat quality.

Like many birds, this young Tufted Titmouse has left its nest before it is fully flighted and is especially vulnerable to unsupervised pets that are kept outdoors. Photo by PauerKorde via Birdshare.Like many birds, this young Tufted Titmouse has left its nest before it is fully flighted and is especially vulnerable to unsupervised pets that are kept outdoors. Photo by PauerKorde Photo via Birdshare.

3. Keep Cats Indoors.  The issue of outdoor and feral cats is perennially contentious, but the cumulative effect of millions of outdoor cats is clear-cut. An estimated 2.6 billion birds die in the U.S. and Canada each year when they are caught by cats. “They’re as invasive as West Nile virus, kudzu, zebra mussels,” Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center director Pete Marra tells The Messenger. Outdoor cats also live shorter, more unpleasant lives—they suffer from tapeworms, contract diseases such as herpes and leukemia, are maimed in fights, killed by predators, and run over by cars. Far from being anti-cat, many bird enthusiasts (including Cornell Lab director John Fitzpatrick) have cats as cherished companions—but keeping them inside is good for the cat and good for the local wildlife.

4. Save Half the Boreal Forest. The Messenger pays a visit to the field site of the University of Alberta’s Erin Bayne, deep in the green blanket that stretches across Canada. This vast region is the planet’s nursery for billions of birds—species such as Blackpoll, Blackburnian, Magnolia, Tennessee, Palm, Yellow-rumped Warblers; Gray-cheeked, Bicknell’s, Swainson’s, and Hermit Thrushes; and many others. It’s an ecosystem so big, the film says, that you can watch global carbon dioxide levels drop as the forest wakes up each spring and summer. And yet it’s being nibbled away by timber harvest, energy extraction and other types of fragmentation. The Boreal Birds Need Half campaign is a push by the Boreal Songbird Initiative and partners including the Cornell Lab to ensure that some of this vast wilderness is set aside for the future.

Plant diversity, both in species and height, makes this backyard attractive to both people and birds. Check out the Cornell LabPlant diversity, both in species and height, makes this backyard attractive to both people and birds. Check out the Cornell Lab's YardMap Program for lots of great ideas on making a wildlife friendly yard. Photo by darwin Bell.

5. Embrace Your Patch. One of the most basic dangers of migration, York University scientist Bridget Stutchbury tells the camera, is the simple problem of landing someplace unfamiliar each day, day after day, during a twice-a-year journey that covers thousands of miles. Each day, is a new round of Where’s the food? Where are the predators? Where’s the shelter, the water? Birds need habitat not just in summer and winter, but in a thread of green connecting the two. That’s where small, individual actions can have a tremendous  impact: by restoring modest patches of habitat (our YardMap project can help) or banding together to preserve larger patches that offer safe harbor to birds on their long journeys (such as the National Wildlife Refuge system that’s supported by sales of the Duck Stamp). Repeatedly birding a spot (known as “patch birding”) also offers the joy of getting to know an area and its annual cycle intimately—and submitting your records to eBird creates an invaluable baseline of information, too.

6. Lend Your Eyes and Ears to the Cause. Citizen science has become an indispensable tool for monitoring our environment. The observations of skilled, interested people scattered across the world provide data at a scale and level of sophistication that satellites and computer can’t match. If you’re interested in the natural world, chances are there’s a citizen-science project that can benefit from your participation. Try Project FeederWatch, NestWatch, YardMap, and eBird, or visit Citizen Science Central or Zooniverse for even more ideas.

7. Be a Messenger: Host a Screening. This is a specific suggestion for a recommendation that works more widely: speak up about the issues that concern you, and look for ways to bring people together around causes that deserve attention. Our Celebrate Urban Birds project has lots of ideas and opportunities for community activities that allow people to share the joy of birds and make a connection with nature. If The Messenger isn’t yet scheduled to play near you, their website has directions for how to bring a showing to your community.


  • nonparieldolls

    Well, you lost me with the old chestnuts about outdoor/feral cats. I’ve taken care of a small colony of feral cats (5) for 13 years. In all that time they have possibly killed one bird. Possibly — because there was a dead bird on the ground once, though none of the cats would come anywhere near it. In fact, the cats could use some protection from the birds, who gather to eat the cat food and do it with impunity. Especially in the spring, I’ve been dive-bombed by the birds who live right there with the cats.

    I think we kind of get in the habit of deciding some animals are “good” and some are “bad” — i.e., buffalo “good”, wolves “bad” — but Nature favors a balance between the two. No??

    I do what I can to benefit all of Nature in my own little “world” – plants, birds, critters, even people. And one last word re feral cats — mine are “fixed, no reproduction, they are looked after and well fed so they have no desire or need to wander, and they are happily living out their lives without having any serious impact on the the environment. It would be wonderful if they could be made “indoor” pets but they’ve never even adjusted to fabric — it scares them, they have nothing to do with it — not sure they’d adjust well to four walls.

  • Evangeline LaMore

    You arent a migratory bird rehabber I suspect…

  • Bob Webster

    it sounds like you are a responsible ecologist, so congrats on that, but if you have had the cats neutered, (more cudos,) and feed them regularly then I don’t think they would technically be referred to as feral, apart from them not living comfortably indoors with humans. I believe the article is referring to truly feral cats which have to hunt to eat. We too are cat lovers and keep them inside for their own safety. But we do see the occasional results of tame cats who hunt by instinct, but don’t eat their prey because they are well fed. I have a couple of friends who have reported their cats bringing them ‘gifts’ of birds and mice. We need to care for all living creatures. Though not all outdoor cats are hunters, there are enough of them to put a significant dent in songbird numbers. So, please don’t be offended by an effort to articulate a problem, even though it doesn’t register in your area. Thank you for your dedicated care of animals.

  • JJ McKibbin

    How much time do you spend with your cats each day? Honestly, unless you are with them 24 hours a day how can you possibly even estimate how many kills they make? Although your cats may show up reliably at feeding time for you, they may roam significant distances in the time in between feedings. Studies have shown that cats bring home less than 25% of their kills. The rest are eaten or left to rot.
    So I’ll ask again – How much time per day are the cats in your sight?

  • BobJ

    We have barn cats that were born feral and have had them all spayed and neutered as you have. I know they hunt but not as much as if they were hungry and they definitely get the occasional bird. Looking at our bird population I’d say our habitat and feeding practices has increased the number of songbirds on our 20 acres several times in the four years we’ve been here. During bad winter storms we can go through 50 lbs of black sunflower seeds in 2 days, along with a lot of soaked dog food.

  • Sharon Poelstra

    There is something important that I have noted from years of being both a bird lover and a cat lover. In my former home I continually rescued birds from my cats. My current location backs on to a wooded area with lots of mature trees and in my new home, they almost never catch birds. My conclusion is simple: the problem in urban areas is lack of tree cover and adequate habitat for birds. They don’t have enough places to hide – and there are too many open spaces thanks to our obsession with lawns. Nor are enough of the trees sufficiently mature – too many of us prefer shrubs and small ornamental trees that are not native. Trust me, cats aren’t going to climb a 60+ foot tree just for a bird when the forest floor is teeming with rodents. In this kind of situation, they mostly climb trees to escape themselves – because they too are prey. There are, however, a few good ground rules. First of all, I don’t let my cats outside until late morning since the birds are most active in the morning. They are not allowed out at night. For their own safety. This is a good compromise and allows the cats the chance to have adequate exercise, fresh air and improves their happiness substantially. They are also neutered/spayed. I belong to an organization that is working hard to reduce the number of cats in our community, both feral and pets by advocating tirelessly for people to sterilize their pets. This is a much more realistic solution because cats, just like dogs, cannot be kept indoors constantly. Some cats will adjust to an indoor life and others simply. will. not. The responsibility for what has happened to the birds rests with all of us – the massive cities that have destroyed habitat. The farms that have also destroyed habitat + use toxic chemical brews that are killing all of the wildlife. The industries that have destroyed vast amounts of land for things such as coal and oil. And we the urbanites who do not plant enough native plants and maintain enough mature trees for our birds to thrive, and we the humans with too many companion animals that are not properly cared for. It comes down to all of us.

  • Betsy Smith Eisenmann

    The statistics about the number of birds killed by outdoor cats are not made up. However, there are situations where only limited action is possible, and the hunting habits of a feral colony is one of those. Believe me, I understand that most truly feral cats cannot be transformed into indoor pets! So, looking after your colony to minimize their need for survival hunting IS a positive step, and getting them neutered so that more hungry mouths are not created is another. Thank you!

    I do know some people (with ample property) who have created enclosures for their feral colonies. The cats have a large, securely fenced/enclosed outdoor space and a cat friendly barn where they can shelter from the elements. The added advantage is that the cats’ food isn’t pilfered by other wildlife!

  • RRRRR00000

    Folks, outdoor cats are abused cats. Simple as that. If they really are your pets, they will live longer, healthier lives indoors.
    Also, “you can’t tame feral cats” is a myth. I have four formerly feral cats that have lived together peaceably and happily for several years.

  • David M. Alton

    I have three feeders for black oiled sunflower seeds, and every year I hang the rib cages from our harvested venison. I have an amazing amount of different birds including four species of woodpeckers, two of nuthatches grosbeaks, crossbills and everything in between!

  • kitcatkitty

    And then what did you do for those birds that you ‘rescued’ from your cats?

    ‘Almost never’ really isn’t good enough. You are still inflicting YOUR pets on native wildlife – that is no compromise – that is selfish.

    A compromise would be you supervising YOUR pets or utilizing a catio or walking them on a leash – there are responsible ways of allowing pets to enjoy the outdoors without hurting indigenous creatures.

    Plant native? Sure, excellent idea. Now do that AND be responsible for your pets. There are ground nesting and feeding birds, native small mammals, and herpetofauna. None of them need to be predated by your cats.

    Sterilizing an animal does not prevent him/her from hunting or spreading diseases. What is needed is to treat cats as dogs – they need to be licensed and not roaming. Owners need to be held accountable. We don’t tolerate free-ranging from any other domestic animals. Would you be happy if a neighbor allowed his python to roam, perhaps when your kitties are outside?

    There are many causes of wildlife mortality, but cats are now the leading human-related cause – billions annually. How hard really is it to simply supervise your cats?

  • kitcatkitty

    Feeding in no way lessens the motivation to hunt. The hunting instinct is separate from the urge to eat. Well-fed cats are in better shape to hunt. Perhaps you should consider not drawing birds and other wildlife to your area. Soaked dog food is not a natural diet for any songbird. Good grief, you must be attracting rabies vector mammals, too. There is also the spread of diseases to consider.

  • Sharon Poelstra

    well, I’ll start by answering your first question: I took the birds I rescued to a bird rehabilitation facility near me. Each one survived. I’d love for you to explain to me why there should be no compromise for our companion animals when there is every possible accommodation for our species. Are you as rigorous with yourself? Is your home built to energy star specifications? Do you drive an electric car? Do you have solar panels on your roof, utilize geo-thermal heat? Do you utilize gas-powered tools around your home or have you removed them? Do you compost and not fertilize? Have you stopped using products with phosphates and formaldehyde that are so polluting our water? After all, the birds and other wildlife drink that water. If you have a swimming pool, do you have a natural swimming pool instead of a chemical-based pool? (how about a count of the number of frogs and other amphibians that die in our chlorinated swimming pools each year??) If you have a pond, do you keep out chemicals that are harmful? Do you make sure that you don’t wash your car in the driveway so that the harmful chemicals in our soaps don’t go directly into the storm sewer? Are your home and garden plants native? What about your lawn? Are you using native grasses? What about your sidewalk and driveway – do you have any asphalt? It’s incredibly carcinogenic. Do you eschew hunting since it interrupts the animal balance within our eco-system? When all of us have done everything we can, then we can insist that all of the introduced creatures be removed too. But I’m a realist – I don’t think we’re going to take down all of the sky scrapers that have been built directly on migratory routes, or the wind turbines that birds have to learn to fly around or completely stop the horrible use of chemicals in big agriculture – that’d be the elephant in the room for what is devastating bird and insect populations. I also don’t think humans are going to realistically limit our own reproduction to balance the world we live in – because it is us that are selfish, not the animals. Humans hunt and kill because they can. Humans have created an industrialized society because it suits us. It does not suit any of the animals with which we share the planet. And no, I also don’t think we’re going to stop building houses and concrete roads even though urbanization destroys more animal and bird habitat that anything else – not the cats. Saying that the problem is our cats is to deny and distract ourselves from the real problem – human behavior and human action. My sterilized cats are never going to breed and add to the problem. The cat over-populations stops with them. I am helping with each cat that I adopt. Limiting or ending their lives does not abdicate or alleviate our responsibility. So, if you’re just a person who doesn’t like or understand cats, you aren’t being honest with yourself. Because the same scenario plays out for dogs that are off-leash – which they are in most rural areas – and kill ducks and other creatures. (not to mention the ones that are used and trained for hunting!) The same scenario includes some of our children who are not taught to be responsible, but step on creatures for ‘fun’ and terrorize frogs and turtles in local water-ways, just because they can. Hypocrisy is in us all – and I definitely include myself in this. The research that is done on the ‘cat problem’ is a pretty funny thing because it is so utterly pointless.

  • Sharon Poelstra

    That may well be your experience. It has not been mine – in spite of real efforts to keep my cats as ‘indoors only’ I have only succeeded once. And there are indeed feral cats that cannot be tamed – one set of feral born kittens that I raised for a rescue organization included one very definite social ‘fail.’ At 3, she is still incredibly afraid of people, which makes me think she is actually a pretty smart cat. Yes, indeed, some people have good success socializing feral cats, although there are also the supposed ‘ferals’ that were simply thrown away by their humans and left outdoors to fend for themselves. We have taken in a couple of those sorts too and it was obvious that they were dependent on humans and simply ‘dumped’ in my neigbourhood. Cats have such a wide range of personalities and behaviors that it really isn’t easy to distill them down to something that can be generalized.

  • Jeff Williams

    Whatever it takes to make you feel better about harboring invasive, toxoplasmosis carrying bird killers. Any cat allowed outside to roam free (ever, no matter the time of day) will kill multiple birds, small reptiles and native rodents. Many birds need low level shrubs for nesting and foraging, including the Wood Thrush. So your statement about mature trees being the cure all for cat and bird issues is totally off base.

  • Sharon Poelstra

    Understood. I’m not an expert, I’m just sharing my personal observation, and have also noted, because my home is on a slope, thus placing my deck much higher as it looks down on the woods, that the vast majority of bird activity is high up in the canopy. Certainly, not all of it and when I walk in the woods – which I do every day – I see birds near the ground as well. What I recognize, and this has nothing to do with cats, really, is that birds flock to wooded areas for a reason and the more woodlands that we as a species destroy for our urban lifestyle, whether it is for farms, industry or city, the more we compromise the bird population. I’m not sure what you think the solution is for the cat population, but certainly, we humans carry and spread plenty of diseases ourselves. And we are the champions at being killers. Cats may perhaps rank closest to us, but destroying them because of it doesn’t fix what we’ve done.

  • Jeff Williams

    As bird lovers, we all try to promote and maintain good habitats for them. As more land is lost to urbanization, monoculture unsustainable farming practices, and industrialization. The oases we provide become more important and more crowded for the birds we attract. Why would we want to provide these areas, attract birds into them, and then allow free roaming cats to enter and terrorize the birds we have attracted? Now, for just a moment, try to put yourself in the place of a tiny neotropical migrant. You have just flown thousands of miles, avoiding natural predators, weathering storms, climate change, deforestation, wind turbines, etc…… Only to FINALLY arrive at your breeding ground, final destination, summer home, and be killed by a cat that is outside “enjoying recess”….. Pretty damn sad.

  • Jeff Williams

    You should be tested for toxoplasmosis, your statements about feral cats needing protection from birds are so far out, you must be crazy. “Crazy Cat Lady Syndrome” is real, and attributed to infection by toxoplasmosis, please educate yourself on this disease, and see a doctor.

  • Sharon Poelstra

    I don’t disagree. Pretty darn sad. Of course, it’s just as sad when they fly into a glass building or are poisoned when they follow a waterway near a farm that has recently sprayed a crop or is using round-up-ready seed. But, back to the cats. There are just. too. many. cats. However, the attempts at lethal solutions do not work. If my cat stays indoors, another cat moves into the yard and takes over. Because cats are territorial. We reduce the number of cats, as we are in my community, by neutering and spaying the feral populations, who in turn maintain a territory without reproducing and keep other cats from moving in. People have to neuter and spay. We also provide low cost or free neuter and spay services to people with low incomes or disabilities. The work is to educate and make no exception. It is the only way. My cat’s access to my yard is as restricted as I can make it and I don’t tolerate other cats coming in. We make it very clear that this yard is not open territory. I don’t put out bird feeders and I’m outside as much as possible. That’s my reality. I don’t actually see another way until we find a method for altering natural behaviors. But at that point, we should just use it on ourselves.

  • Jeff Williams

    I joined this conversation because I truly care about promoting protections for songbirds and other native wildlife. It’s very obvious after your postings that your sole purpose is trolling bird websites trying to further your pro cat agenda. You said yourself “there are too many cats”. So I find it baffling that your solution is to let your own cats roam free? And your statement that lethal solutions don’t work is completely wrong. In the past 10 yrs, I have live trapped over 100 loose cats, and turned them over to the local shelter for euthanasia. In that time the number of Wood Thrush nests in my 8 acre woods went from zero to 6 active nests this year. If those cats were neutered and released, the Wood Thrushes would still be at zero. Since you can’t knock down buildings, or stop farming, just throw your hands in the air, and set all the cats free! Your unwavering view is alarming and disturbing. Please in the future, keep your wrong and unrealistic views on a feral cat website, instead of a site titled ” 7 things you can do to help songbirds “

  • chiwoowa9

    You seem to assume that cats need to climb a tree or a shrub to get at birds and birds’ nests. The birds who are ground-feeders and have nests on the ground, plus fledging birds that come to the ground, are those most at risk from cats.

    As for birds being “most active in the morning,” I have witnessed my neighbors’ cats kill birds in my yard at all times of the day. Please don’t think that your cats aren’t killing “as many” birds, just because you don’t allow the cats out in the AM.

    I wish you could see the many “places to hide” in my yard, too. As soon as a towhee, sparrow, finch, mockingbird, jay, etc. hits the ground, it is food for hunting cats, make no mistake about that.

  • chiwoowa9

    Yes. I agree completely. An extremely observant friend of mine made a joke about my efforts to keep my yard bird-attractive and safe for all animals. He said my neighbors’ cats would say to one another, “Hey. How’s about let’s go next door to ‘The Refuge’ and hunt birds and lizards today?'”

  • chiwoowa9

    Jeff: Ouch. Strong words, but I can’t fault you for that, as I feel much the same. If only cat owners would own up to the fact that, if allowed to roam unsupervised, cats are lethal and destructive, and far from environmentally friendly.

    I get the whole “rodent control” argument, too, but, from personal experience, I would much rather leave the rodent control to the owls.

  • chiwoowa9

    This is often a problem with certain discussions: people bring in other subjects, finger point, act self righteous and thus try to justify their own misbehavior. Getting off subject is a sad attempt to muddy the waters and go on the offensive.

    Dredging up things such as what kind of car one drives is an attempt to detract from the real issue here, All we are concerned with on this thread is helping bird populations thrive. The protection of birds and other small animals from marauding cats is a step in the right direction.

    Take responsibility for your own actions. Remember that each little step in the right direction helps.

  • chiwoowa9

    Balance. Yes. That is part of what we are discussing here. If over one billion birds die each year thanks to hunting cats, I would venture to say that the “balance” is way, way, WAY out of whack.

    If you think your cats are not killing birds and other small animals and thus having “serious impact on the environment” then you are sadly mistaken. If your cats are out and about, they are killing.

  • Sharon Poelstra

    Well then. Great put down. How dare I share my observations about birds and other species if I also consider the plight of cats. Do you attack everyone who has a different opinion than you? Or assume that if their opinion isn’t the same as yours they couldn’t possibly care about song birds? Unlike you, I am an actual animal lover and do not accept that more killing is the solution to all the killing that we have already done. Because, make no mistake – it is humans who have pushed songbirds to the brink. Cats are only a part of that picture because of humans. And you are a perfect example of why this discussion is not getting anywhere quickly. Yes, you can patrol your 8 acre woods and trap cats – forever. Because that’s. what. you. will. have. to. do. You may be comfortable with being a killer – for the rest of your life. However, many people are not. Killing cats is an expensive solution that doesn’t solve the problem. Not for the cats and definitely not for the birds. Cats will keep coming back unless we manage their populations properly. We brought them here and they and the cats that are native to N. America are survivors. They are too fertile and too adaptable. Keeping cats indoors is a band aid solution at best. And if people such as myself, who actually loves birds as well as cats, finds it almost impossible to do in my family, what does that tell you about the rest of the companion animal people out there? It’s all fine to rail at the rest of society to solve what you perceive to be the problem but you are not likely to get a solution if you continue to deflect the blame for a human made problem onto a single species. It is so much more complex than that, and It will take people working together on all of the fronts to fix this. I am doing my best in every way I can. For all animals. Even the human one.

  • kitcatkitty

    I didn’t say there should be no compromise.
    I pointed out that still allowing your cats to have access to wildlife
    is NOT a compromise (but in your head, that is the case). A compromise would be you supervising the
    cats while they are outside, or walking them on a leash, or building a
    catio. There. That is three.

    You are not a realist.
    You are skirting and deflecting the issue. You are making excuses. What is your excuse for not building or
    buying a catio?

    For the record, we upgrade to energy efficiencies as time
    and money permits. My spouse and I share
    ONE sedan. We have no children. We use no pesticides whatsoever. No pool.
    We plant native shrubs and trees.
    We are extremely cognizant about environmental issues and do not even
    purchase one darn product that has palm oil.
    So skip the contest and let us get back to the issue about which you
    posted – cats. They are the leading
    direct anthropogenic cause of wildlife mortality – and that does not even
    include disease transmission, just predation.
    And we know that thanks to peer-reviewed and rigorous research. Now we need to act before things get so bad
    that the USA will be culling
    them as Australia
    is about to do.

    Further, try not to presume that folks who believe in not
    allowing cats to have access to wildlife do not like cats or do not understand
    cats. You are so meowing up the wrong

    Cat impact on wildlife is a real and significant
    problem. All causes of mortality need to
    be addressed. Heart disease is the number
    one killer of women in the USA. If you get breast cancer, will you ignore
    that? Will you ‘compromise’ your health
    in some weird way by only going to half of your scheduled medical appointments?

    So how about you stop letting the kitties outside late
    morning and build a catio? Or answer the
    other question… how hard can it be to supervise them? Just how many do you have?

  • kitcatkitty

    Well said. Any area saturated with cats IS habitat loss.

  • Sharon Poelstra

    I don’t think bringing up cars is a different issue. The effects of our industrialized life style is killing the natural world. Full stop. We need to be aware of everything we do that impacts the ‘web of life’ as the first nations people call it. I’m not justifying ‘misbehavior.’ I’m saying that the idea of keeping cats indoors is not a well thought out idea, nor a workable one. I am concerned about the bird populations. And the butterfly population. However, I am not going to suggest that the solution to low monarch numbers is to kill off the two species of birds that are know to eat monarch caterpillars! People need to both listen and be creative in changing the things we have done to get where we are. No solution includes one perspective being the only one that is heard and no solution will be manageable without actual observation, assessment and feedback about its implementation.

  • kitcatkitty

    Well, that explains things. A TNR supporter/practitioner. If a cat comes into your yard/area, trap to remove (but you will not because the life of that one cat is more important to you than every critter she will ever kill). So tired to hear the nonsense about cats not ‘moving in’ because other cats will keep them out. Hogwash. Cats don’t hang around unless there is something to keep them there like food or shelter. Immigration is a problem in ‘managed’ colonies. People successfully dump/add to existing colonies. The cats do not prevent newcomers from joining.

  • kitcatkitty

    You exhibit disconnect. If killing is not the answer, then why allow your cats to kill? In TNR the cats are ALWAYS present and the method does nothing for population control because (as you have said) there are too many cats. We cannot sterilize our way out of this problem through TNR.

    But removal does indeed provide a much needed break for resident/breeding and migratory birds.

    Perceive to be the problem? Denial like that is the problem.

  • chiwoowa9

    One commenter here used the word “deflecting.” Perfectly sums it up. When you bring in off-topic subjects, you are deflecting and not making your point of view any more credible.

  • kitcatkitty

    I imagine that if owners were fined for allowing cats to roam they’d find a way to keep the kitties inside. Workable by not opening the darn door. Or trying other things that have been mentioned like catios.

    Lack of effort seems to be the problem.

  • Jeff Williams

    Did you you even read the 7 Things You Can Do To Help Songbirds? 1 of the 7 is, Keep Cats Indoors. This is coming from the Cornell Lab Of Ornitholigy. World leaders in bird conservation. You are bragging about defiantly denying one of the most important things to do to protect birds. You are letting your invasive species kill songbirds, and at the same time calling me a killer. You are also completely ass backwards about your views on hunting also. Controlling deer populations is also one of the most important things to protect songbird habitat. And Google search Ducks Unlimited to see how many millions of dollars they spend on habitat restoration. 1 of the other 7 Things is, Embrace Your Patch, that’s exactly what I am doing by trapping and removing these cats from the habitat. I also know that what I am doing is working, because most of those cats were removed within the first 4 years, and now I only have to remove a few each year. Well worth the effort to be able to hear the beautiful songs of the Wood Thrush. If you truly loved birds like you claim, you would keep your cats indoors and out of nature. And if you truly loved your domesticated cats, you would keep them indoors, where they belong. You are obviously a bleeding heart, radical, feral cat activist, trying to force your irrational beliefs on true bird lovers. And PLEASE stop trolling bird threads to promote your agenda.

  • Sharon Poelstra

    Ok guys. I give up. You are obviously a club that doesn’t actually discuss anything except your own biased opinions. I’m a ‘bleeding heart radical feral cat activist????!!!! What utter nonsense. You should listen to yourself! ! Yes of course I read the article and I respectfully disagree with one of its points. But it’s also a complete waste of time to deal with people who just look for ways to attack. The other phrase you can consider is: “Think global, act local.” You just don’t get it. You definitely can’t kill or bully your way to a solution. It’s been tried.

  • kitcatkitty

    Let me try this one more time. Why can’t you use a catio? Why can’t you supervise the cats?

  • Sharon Poelstra

    Quick answer: yes, I supervise. Quite closely. I also want the cats to leave the frogs and snakes alone. Have tried the other options also. The decision to keep them in until late mornings was on the advice of an ornithologist. Apparently, we agree on many other things. However, the culling of cats is nothing new. It’s hugely expensive and has been done for years. TNR for feral and companion cats is the one route that is proving to be successful. And no, just because you put a cute phrase in your reply does not indicate to me that you have any particular understanding of cats. that you ‘don’t believe’ in cats having access to wildlife is irrelevant to the fact that they do – have access that is. I don’t like it either, and am actually trying to do something about it beyond the ridiculous notion that we can just kill our way to a solution.

  • Annette Kirby

    Finally, someone that I can agree with. Thank you for your reasoning. I love both birds and cats. I can’t imagine a cat
    Living inside walls exclusively. I have just one who does but
    She is a little weird.

  • Annette Kirby


  • Diane

    I take issue with #3. I know of MANY people and MANY rescuers who neuter/spay and care for feral cats providing food, shelter, water and medical. Don’t blame cats for being feral, sick or diseased BLAME HUMANS who are the real problem. They dump companion cats, they don’t neuter/spay or provide medical, they move and leave cats to fend for themselves.
    I currently have 6 neutered/spayed feral cats. One of them has killed 3 birds this season and one of the birds was invasive – yea for kitty! One out of 6 equals 16%. When I had 10 feral cats, 2 of them hunted for birds. That equals 10%. By the way, cats are not the only predators of birds. If you are taking the same approach as The Audubon Society re: feral cats, then we will have to part ways.

  • Diane

    Why was my comment deleted?

  • Sandy Kavanaugh

    When we moved here on our small, ten acre farm 20 years ago, there cwere coveys of Northern Bobwhite Quail, Wood Thrushes, Whippoorwills, and Eastern Meadowlarks, as well as nesting Killdeer. The very day that people dropped off their unwanted kittens, “because those farmers cwould want them,” meaning us, the songs began to disappear. It’s been 19 years since I’ve heard the lonely call of a Whippoorwill, or been scared witless by an explosion of quail, or heard the melodious tinkling of a Wood Thrush.
    I tried trapping the cats, but our local shelter won’t take them- they’re just too many. Birds belong, cats do not, and they get shot. This action, along with allowing brush to grow along the fencelines, (much to my husbands consternation,) has allowed the birds to at least try to live in an ever increasingly hostile world.

  • Jeff Williams

    More bleeding heart feral cat activists, too blinded by their love for cats to see the true destruction they have on bird populations. Do you have cameras mounted on your free roaming invasive domestic “pets”? Unless you do, you have absolutely no idea how many animals they are killing. Are you a biologist, studying the effects of cats on songbird populations? No, then your stupid statements and percentages mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, you need to get a grip on reality, and you should also be tested for toxoplasmosis, you are definitely showing signs of “crazy cat lady disease”…..

  • Jeff Williams

    You should also keep your unrealistic views on a site devoted to feral cat lovers. Why? you uninformed, uneducated, unwilling to accept sound science, feral cat activists troll around on a website devoted to songbirds, is beyond me. This thread is aimed directly at YOU people. Completely irresponsible, living in complete denial, that the feral cats you love so much, are leading to the decimation of songbird populations. You people are truly out of your minds. That you cannot accept, that YOUR actions of harboring unwanted, invasive pests, and allowing them to roam, is leading to the deaths of millions of songbirds every year. Instead of coming on these sites bragging about your stupid, backwards opinions, you should be euthanizing the horrible invasive species that you harbor and promote.

  • Annette Kirby

    How dare you. You know nothing about me. Calling people names..is stupid and backward,.over and out!

  • Diane

    I am certain you are a moron and probably one of the 2 legged creatures that abuses cats.

  • Jeff Williams

    YOU are the moron, but you are right about one thing, humans are to blame for the feral cat problem in North America. Ignorant humans, such as yourself, that put the welfare of feral disease carrying cats, on a higher priority list than the endangered and threatened songbirds that these cats are killing. I can’t understand how you bleeding heart feral cat activists, have so much compassion for an invasive species, and not give a damn about the plight of the native beautiful songbirds that are so affected by people like you that practice TNR. This thread is aimed directly at people like YOU. Trying to convince lazy idiots to KEEP YOUR CATS INSIDE!!!! If feral cats are your passion and hobby? You need to get a life and try something like birdwatching, oh wait, your feral cats killed them all. I don’t abuse any animals, not even feral cats, but I do practice trap and dispatch, and commend all bird lovers and property managers that do the same. As I have told all the other bleeding heart feral cat activists on this thread, you should educate yourself on toxoplasmosis, and get tested. You definitely exhibit signs of “crazy cat lady disease”.

  • niccolo

    Ok, so i’m neither a high strung ornithologist crying birds murder by housecats or a lover of feral cats and i understand the points made by both groups. I like birds and i like cats. First start with the fact that the population of pets is almost entirely artificially controlled by humans, therefore so is the killing action of those cats. But cats are an animal too that needs contact with nature, and to deny that without going through the proper argumentation many bird defenders on this thread are wrong. We would not eradicate natural wild predators because their population self regulates in accordance to available prey. With pets, humans have artificially broken the natural balance. So it’s true humans have a responsibility to prevent bird killing by pet cats. Just like the policy of no lawn-watering during draught, no free roaming pet cats should be allowed, until the public authority finds a way to regulate the house cat population by imposing a pet cat over-population tax ! That would make a lot of sense. As for feral cats, they live the hard life and as long as they are not fed by humans, they are part of the natural balance and will die if they become too numerous (unlike pet cats). They will kill to feed, not with a belly full of industry cat food providing them for surplus energy for killing without feeding. It is why nobody should feed them !!! People should be fined for feeding feral cats. As it will off balance the natural regulation, causing them to spread without having to work for their food and kill birds. The point is : a feral cat is inside the natural ecosystem and does not constitute a danger to bird population. So it stays that 1) pet cats should not be allowed to roam outside freely as long as the government has not created a Cat tax to limit pet cats over population. and 2) Feral cats should NEVER be fed and there should be a dissuasive high fine penalty. if you fed it, even one time, you should be fined and the feral cat must be captured and either become your controlled roaming pet or die.
    I think that is the correct assesment of this whole bird – cat issue.

7 Things You Can Do to Help Songbirds If You’ve Just Watched The Messenger