A newly published study by Environment Canada scientist finds free-ranging cats are the biggest killer of birds among human-related causes. The authors estimate 1.4 to 4.2 Million feral cats in Canada each killing 24 to 64 birds per year. An American study published in 2012 came to similar conclusions. The open access article is available here.
Avian Conservation and Ecology 8(2): 3.
Estimated Number of Birds Killed by House Cats (Felis catus) in Canada
Estimation du nombre d’oiseaux tués par les chats domestiques (Felis catus) au Canada
Predation by house cats (Felis catus) is one of the largest human-related sources of mortality for wild birds in the United States and elsewhere, and has been implicated in extinctions and population declines of several species. However, relatively little is known about this topic in Canada. The objectives of this study were to provide plausible estimates for the number of birds killed by house cats in Canada, identify information that would help improve those estimates, and identify species potentially vulnerable to population impacts. In total, cats are estimated to kill between 100 and 350 million birds per year in Canada (> 95% of estimates were in this range), with the majority likely to be killed by feral cats. This range of estimates is based on surveys indicating that Canadians own about 8.5 million pet cats, a rough approximation of 1.4 to 4.2 million feral cats, and literature values of predation rates from studies conducted elsewhere. Reliability of the total kill estimate would be improved most by better knowledge of feral cat numbers and diet in Canada, though any data on birds killed by cats in Canada would be helpful. These estimates suggest that 2-7% of birds in southern Canada are killed by cats per year. Even at the low end, predation by house cats is probably the largest human-related source of bird mortality in Canada. Many species of birds are potentially vulnerable to at least local population impacts in southern Canada, by virtue of nesting or feeding on or near ground level, and habitat choices that bring them into contact with human-dominated landscapes where cats are abundant. Because cat predation is likely to remain a primary source of bird mortality in Canada for some time, this issue needs more scientific attention in Canada.