ballardmama, technically hippos are omnivores, just ask that little person's family, the one that somersaulted into a hippo's mouth back in 2006... they also eat a lot of fish and just about anything else that will fit into their mouths, which includes a few of the smaller red states... ;)
opinions needed from outdoor cat owners.....(82 posts)
The newer theory on forward faced eye placement has to do with having a "cluttered" vs "uncluttered" environment. A cluttered environment typically consists of many small objects that fill the environment, such as small leaves. This makes a broader scope of binocular vision an evolutionary advantage.
Strangely enough, humans are now considered to live in an uncluttered environment. Although we have many things around us, they are generally too large (cars, buildings, other people...) to make forward facing eyes much of an advantage for us at this point in time.
I like it when I walk around blinking really fast. what does that make me?
Sorry, BallardMama, but I am going to argue with you, but probably not for the reason that you think. I keep my cats indoors for their protection - the protection of other animals is incidental. But cats do catch birds and other animals as noted. It is their nature.
But you are simply wrong that urban areas are not ecosystems. This is a hugely booming field of ecology right now. There are several books on the subject - I have contributed chapters to some - and several long-term ecological studies going on throughout the world. One of the best studies is in Baltimore - http://beslter.org/ - but there are also outstanding ones in Phoenix and Berlin, among other places. Seattle also had some programs in urban ecology at the UW. This one is still very active - http://www.urbaneco.washington.edu/. NASA has also researched this in Atlanta - http://wwwghcc.msfc.nasa.gov/urban/urban_news.html. These studies are changing how we design and live in cities.
The reality is that water, soil, air, and all the physical components of ecosystems are altered in urban areas, but they are still here, doing what they do in wildlands. And the animals are here too. We have lots of native birds, and plenty of native mammals, as well as the non-natives like cats. And what we do in these urban areas mightly affects wildlands - everything from changing precipitation downwind of cities because of the heat island effect to spreading invasive species.
Humans are a part of nature, but we do things on unnatural scales. It is time we realize that and take some responsibility for it.
Plantlover - I couldn't agree more. well said. I heart you :-)
BallardMama, I'm standing and applauding as well. I categorically refuse to feel guilty because my cat goes outside occasionally.
So....assuming that predators have eyes facing forward, and prey have eyes facing sideways.....where do Mom's fit in? Mom's are said to have eyes in the back of their heads. Or at least they do if you listen to their children.
Thank you, Plantlover!
I (personally) have a hard time believing cats are a major factor in decline of songbird population. Our cat is too busy playing king-of-the-driveway to be bothered hunting birds/mice.
On occasion he has gotten a sparrow... even brought inside to show us! That happens.
We do far more damage to the ecosystem sipping water from our plastic bottles, etc.
You have a hard time believing as a result of research you've done? Or due to a 'gut' feeling? If it's the former, please share. If it's the latter...who cares?
Plastic bottles, etc., are ALSO bad for the ecosystem.
It always amazes me when people take pride in their ignorance. Which is pretty much the hallmark of U.S. citizenship these days. Future generations will not be amused.
Read closer. I indicated it is my personal feeling. Nobody cares. It's my feeling.
Nothing personal, but, decisions based upon feelings, versus facts & rational thinking, are killing the planet.
Hugs in return, but, from a cautious distance.
TLDR alert! <grin>
I can't say I have ever looked for studies that attempt to quantify the effects of outdoor cats on bird populations in an urban environment. I daresay they are there in quantity, and probably a fair number of high quality studies. But I have not taken the time to hunt them down.
But, I can say there have been lots of studies and field work on cats and their effects on birds in the Hawaiian Islands. In one word. Big!
I don't mean to equate HI with Ballard. (a quick look outside today would trounce that comparison and send us running for concourse A and the Hawaiian gates at Seatac!) HI was a very isolated environment until man arrived VERY recently. Animals and plants evolved without the range of predators we see in larger environments like the continents. Hawaiian birds are pretty much all ground nesters for example. A predator like a cat was devastating to them. One cat can take out a female Nene....the native Hawaiian Goose. They are smaller than a Canada Goose but are still sizable animals for a cat to kill. Cats usually get the females because during nesting season the females will stand and defend the nest against a cat and are more vulnerable to direct attack. The young are also very vulnerable to cats because they can't fly yet and are much smaller and less experienced.
Cats are also devastating to the endangered Hawaiian Petrels, pelagic birds that nest in burrows at the high levels of the mountains on most of the islands. Significant predation by cats has been observed and documented up to their highest nesting areas at 10,000 feet. A friend and co-worker spent weeks camping up there in a bivy sack documenting and filming the predation in one of the more recent studies from just a few years ago.
And the smaller endangered Hawaiian birds take it in the shorts from cats as well.
Keep in mind the serious cat predation is from feral cats, not just house tabbies out for an evening stroll. But house cats running loose are the source of feral cats.
Cats are certainly not the only cause of the decline in Hawaiian birds of course. Rats did a bunch of damage after we introduced them from ships. Mongoose take a heavy toll after they were mistakenly introduced by us to kill rats in an attempt to save the birds. (rats are nocturnal, mongoose diurnal....mongoose never saw the rats to eat them, so they preyed on the birds instead.) Believe it or not, even wild pigs have an effect on the birds by rooting up tree ferns to feed, leaving puddles of standing water that never would have existed otherwise. Hawaiian rainforests have little to no standing water due to the nature of the soils and vegetation. The pools created by the pigs routing provided a breeding ground for inadvertently introduced mosquitos carrying avian malaria. Then there is habitat loss as well and the introduction of non native birds and other animals that compete for food, etc. But cats are quite significant and have been proven to be so in study after study on the islands. My guess is that cats are are having at least some measurable effect on bird populations here.
Yes....our urban environments are pretty wacked as ecosystems go. So is HI for that matter. What we we see today in HI has no bearing on what the first migrants found there. As Plantlover pointed out a few posts back, urban areas are still ecosystems. And they are not isolated. They blend and merge with suburbia and finally rural and forested areas all around us. What we do to animals and plants here can have a pretty broad effect beyond the Seattle City line. Remember that many of the birds we know and love here in Ballard are transients. If we do things here that effect their populations that effect is carried out to the rest of their range when they migrate.
Please.....don't take my TLDR post here as an attack on folks who believe in outdoor cats. I most certainly don't think you are evil people who have no care for the environment. I understand about concerns over the perceived happiness of a housebound animal versus one that can go regularly. I understand the belief that our individual pets aren't contributing in any significant way to predation, or that because the urban ecosystem is soooo altered that it doesn't really matter. And I would be surprised if there weren't a sizable difference in the hunting effectiveness of H20_girl's well fed house tabby who goes out now and then versus a cat that is out on its all all day or all night, and a cat that has become part of the feral population.
I was only hoping to point out that at least in a location I am familiar with, HI, cats are significant predators, that free running Hawaiian house cats were part of the problem. I wanted to remind us all that our city is part and parcel to a much larger environment here in the PNW. And I wanted to point out that while our individual cat may not be taking many birds in the course of the year there is a whole slug of cats in this city. Taken as a whole I would suspect their impact on birds is pretty significant.
By the way….if you wanted some help locating primary references on the studies of cat predation in the Hawaiian Islands let me know. I will be back in the office after New Year and can help you. In the meantime, here is a kind of a synopsis that covers a number of areas, including Hawaii and some urban areas, with studies cited at the end that might be of help to you. The citations listed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service are particularly useful in terms of Hawaiian issues.
And lastly. For what it is worth. I am not a bird fanatic. I just got a bit sensitive to the topic when I lived in HI for 10 years and worked closely with the folks who were studying the issue and trying hard to save those rare birds. I dropped a lot of misconceptions during that time.
too long--but I read anyway!
great post, dsomers.
yes, great post indeed. thank you Dsomers :-) You don't have to be a bird "fanatic" to care about them.
Yes, thank you for providing facts, not gut feelings, or ill-informed speculation. How refreshing.
I find it interesting that someone like myself who wants more actual research in our area on why the songbird population is dwindling (is it dwindling? I have not seen any studies on our area) is considered to be "reacting emotionally without any scientific backing" - but someone who presents a study from years ago in a different region which lacks scientific method and has flaws in its statistical analysis - how that person is considered "coming from a rational and scientific place" even as they screech about how anyone who disagrees "doesn't care about innocent wildlife" and is as crazy as the climate change naysayers.
If there is a problem with cats killing birds in Hawaii which it sounds like studies were done and it was shown there was, then I'm all for finding a solution for that area based on the evidence found. But that is Hawaii. This is Seattle. They are very different places. If they weren't I wouldn't waste my time wishing we could afford to live in Hawaii. Our culture is different, the species of birds are completely different, the climate is completely different, etc.
When I make my decisions on what I can do to help the environment I don't go on knee-jerk reactions based on studies that were done in other places years ago and aren't even considered valid studies because control groups were not defined and variable factors were not considered. And I especially don't make my decisions based on "I like the pretty birdies and I don't want to see a meanie cat kill one." Definitely don't want the nature channel then. You don't want to see one of those evil lions kill that poor innocent gazelle.
There is obviously an "ecosystem" in urban areas. It is in no way a strong, healthy ecosystem though. And when humans want to pick and choose what animals they deem worthy of being and not being prey based on whether or not they're pretty (ie: songbirds) or scary (ie: rats) then things get even more out of hand. If songbirds are truly dwindling in the Pacific NW we need to find the real reason, not just jump to conclusions. They could be dwindling because of many factors, including lack of natural food sources, interruption in migration patterns because of urban birdfeeders, lack of predators or in the possible case of cats too many predators, or over-population of other species such as rats, pigeons and raccoons, or overpopulation of their own species causing disease and starvation - we need to look at all those things. If we focus on a knee-jerk, easy answer solution and let possible other factors go by the wayside, the species will continue to dwindle and we will have done more harm than good.
I'm all for preserving wildlife in cities. In fact, that is why I'm moving out of the city is there is not enough wildlife for me here. But I want to do the preservation in a thorough and productive way, not just jump to conclusions based on simple reasoning with no factual evidence to back it up. To say just because cats were the problem in a completely different place like Hawaii so that is the problem in Seattle is like saying that we proved global warming on Earth therefor it is the same on Mars.
So, if wanting to do things in a methodical and scientific way is "reacting emotionally" then I will stick to what I'm doing and say "Yes, I am reacting emotionally apparently". But I have found that when one does not have science and solid research behind what they are claiming, they tend to resort to insults and put-downs of anyone who disagrees with them in order to try and prove their point.
I think danmonaghan's response makes my point. How appropo.
Even the Audubon Society's website lists many reasons for declines of birds in urban areas and it is far more complex than people who let their cats outside. If we really want to help birds survive the changes to their habitat we all need to look at the big picture instead of finding a convenient scapegoat like some indoor/outdoor cats and saying they are the whole of the problem. The ones who actually can hunt and kill birds don't help the situation but they are by far not the whole or even majority of the problem.
I don't have a cat. But I am curious if these outdoor cats are following the golden hunting rule of "eat what you kill".
Shall I offer to knit these triangle bibs for your kitties? Maybe someone can print up calling cards for them that explain to the birds that the bibs are not meant to prepare the cat for eating the bird and staying clean and neat. BTW why are human bibs round and not triangle?
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