House Cats and Wind Turbines
My brothers and I used to risk life and limb climbing in the old wooden hay barn on our property. My sisters climbed, too, but they weren’t as crazy as the boys. There were solid ladders to the peaks on both sides, and with post and timber framing and finger spaces between the siding, we could sidle along to almost any spot on the inside walls.
No one in the family were big fans of squab, who left feathers and droppings all over the barn floor. They roosted too high for the cats, and enjoyed the shelter. My Dad tried to keep them out, even shooting at them, but it was wasn’t a very tight barn.
I found a nest with three recently hatched chicks in the high reaches one day, and brought it down to a loft. Someone brought our cat Leon over to see how he’d react to the tiny birds. And he ate them. We were astonished. We’d seen cats eat birds on cartoons, but seeing the cruel reality of him biting, and them dying was quite a lesson to us. To Leon it was just another meal.
Lately there have been several articles criticizing both pet and feral cats as high-impact predators in the human-dominated habitat.
The estimated kill rates are two to four times higher than mortality figures previously bandied about, and position the domestic cat as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation. More birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats, the report said, than from automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windmills and other so-called anthropogenic causes.
Jumping on the bandwagon, the wind lobby is claiming they’re not so bad because kitty cats kill a lot more birds than turbines.
In reality, environmental groups did not object to wind turbines just because they killed birds. Avian advocacy groups, like Audubon, objected to the turbines that are placed in high mountain ridges and kill slow-breeding raptors, or owls, or bats. Environmentalists object that the wind energy companies clearcut the forests around each turbine, and clearcut wide access roads between them. These issues can be fixed.
Unfortunately wind energy companies are largely run by the same sorts of people that run fossil fuel companies. They think worrying about environmental concerns is for suckers when there are profits to be made. So they publish charts, like this one in Mother Jones, showing that cats kill more birds than wind turbines.
Well cats do kill a lot of birds, as do buildings, jets, trucks and cars. And before man dominated the habitat, bobcats, foxes and larger birds killed a lot of birds. But the type of birds that small predators can catch were able to breed rapidly enough to survive the losses. To these small birds the game is the same, but they are becoming outnumbered by human-subsidized predators.
Wind turbines were a game changer because they threatened large birds, and other game, that had already been pushed into remote areas. Reportedly newer wind turbines are not as much of a threat to raptors, and there has been something of a rapprochement between wind groups and (some) environmental groups, with the former helping to fund the latter.
But the issue of house cats killing songbirds, while serious, bears very little comparison to turbines killing raptors. As with the slick, pro-fracking and pro-fructose adverts on television and in print, when so much effort is put into misdirection, one wonders what they are hiding.