Keep your cats inside

Warning: controversial material.

You have been warned. Cat lovers – this article may upset you, but this article is backed by solid scientific research.

A recent CSIRO study has estimated that over 75 million Australian creatures (birds, reptiles, mammals etc) are killed by cats every day. Read that again: 75 million daily.

Furthermore, cats have been identified as the prime reason for the extinction of mammal species in recent years. Extinction is forever.

If you love your cat, keep it indoors all the time. Other studies have shown that the average lifespan of a domestic cat allowed to roam freely is 4 years. However, cats living indoors all the time live, on average, 14 years. The implication is obvious; if you love your cat and want it to live a long life, keep it indoors.

Domestic cats left to roam very frequently go feral, or breed with feral cats. I hope you never come face to face with a truly wild, feral cat; they are enormous, wily, and truly terrifying hunters. We have over 20 million of them out there in our cities, suburbs, rural areas and the bush.

Federal Environmental Minister Greg Hunt recently told Background Briefing that he wants to focus on feral cat eradication, announcing a 10-year plan to control them.

“Right now we have the best part of 20 million oversized, over hungry, ferocious predators in the wild and that’s what we have to deal with,” he said. “Although, making sure that we have very solid and safe protocols with our councils for ensuring that [domestic] cats are registered and microchipped and sterilised I think is very important,” Mr Hunt said.

As I have stated here on a number of occasions, especially in the comments, is that cats have no place in our Australian environment.

Further reading:

 

Apostlebirds by the dozen

Apostlebirds, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Apostlebirds, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Apostlebirds are not all that common in South Australia. In fact, they are confined to a few locations in the mid-north of the state plus one site I know of near the eastern border south of Renmark. In parts of New South Wales, however, they are widespread and common in many places. They are also very confiding birds and will happily share their little patch of bushland – if you share some of your morning or afternoon tea.

On our recent visit to the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo I was surprised at just how common they actually are, but then there is plenty of food for the taking, both in the animal enclosures and in the picnic areas where human food scraps are in abundance. It is not surprising then that I was able to get at least several good photos during our visit.

Apostlebirds are not the most photogenic birds found in Australia, being only dull grey with some black patches. What they lack in colour they certainly make up for with their gregarious nature. Because of this nature they certainly are one of my favourites and I always look out for them wherever we travel.

Apostlebird, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Apostlebird, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Apostlebird, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Apostlebird, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Helmeted Guineafowl

 

Helmeted Guineafowl, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Helmeted Guineafowl, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

This is not a sight you see very often in Australia. Helmeted Guineafowl are an introduced species present in a few scattered locations around the continent. They are nowhere in abundance, only existing in a few locations and usually as a result of an escape from a farm, park or zoo.

This small group obviously have the run  of the grounds of the Western Plains Zoo on the outskirts of Dubbo. I am assuming that this population is a self-sustaining group living permanently in the grounds of the zoo and feeding upon food left for other birds and animals.

This species is native to Africa but is often kept in small domesticated populations in various places around Australia. I assume that there are also some self-sustaining feral populations too.

My next door neighbour has about a dozen which often stray onto our property. I wrote about them here.

Helmeted Guineafowl, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Helmeted Guineafowl, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Great birding moments #34: Superb Fairy-wren

Male Superb Fairy-wren

Male Superb Fairy-wren

Two days ago I wrote about the birds we saw at the hippo enclosure when we visited the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo recently. One species I didn’t mention was the Superb Fairy-wren because I wanted it to have its own post. Today’s photos feature a male bird in full breeding plumage plus one shot of a female (see below).

There were several birds, both male and female, hopping around the viewing platform at the hippo enclosure. I tried hard to get a few photos but they were constantly on the move. This is typical of this species; it makes effective photography a real challenge.

As we returned to our car – the open range zoo is a “drive yourself” experience – a male Superb Fairy-wren was fluttering around the car next to ours. The photo above shows him on the roo bar at the front of the vehicle. He was very agitated and ignored me only a metre or so away from him. He then flew many times at his reflection in the car’s window (see photo below).

 

Male Superb Fairy-wren

Male Superb Fairy-wren attacking its reflection in a car window

A number of Australian bird species display this aggressive behaviour. Thinking that their reflection is an enemy attempting to take over its territory, the male bird will attack its own image many dozens of times. Not only do they attack the reflection in the windows of a car, they can also be attracted to the outside mirrors, shiny hub-caps, shiny bumper-bars and any reflective surface. A few years ago our resident Willie Wagtail was attracted to the mirrors on our car. Day after day for periods up to a half hour it would attack the mirror, leaving a very unpleasant residue on each mirror in the process.

Male Superb Fairy-wren

Male Superb Fairy-wren

Some of the species which display this behaviour include Australian Magpies, Willie Wagtails, Magpie Larks, finches, honeyeaters, and ravens and crows. A few years ago we had a Little Raven in our garden which was annoyed by its reflection in our bedroom window glass. Every morning around dawn it would come and peck loudly on the glass. Being suddenly woken in this fashion at such an early hour was not very pleasant, and we were pleased when it  moved on and no longer came knocking well before our normal time of rising.

Male Superb Fairy-wren

Male Superb Fairy-wren

This post is #34 of a series called Great Birding Moments. I think the title is self explanatory. Sadly, it is over six years since the last in this series, so I think I will have to rectify that in the coming months. You can access a list of the articles by clicking here.

Female Superb Fairy-wren

Feale Superb Fairy-wren

Birds of the hippo enclosure

Hippopotamus, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Hippopotamus, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

I think that the hippopotamus is a fascinating animal, but I will resist the temptation to write about it. After all, this site is about Australian birds, so… here we go.

The hippo enclosure a the Western Plains Zoo near Dubbo in New South Wales is a huge one – much larger than enclosures you will see in most zoos. It gives the animals plenty of room to move and live in a more natural environment than would otherwise be the case in captivity. As a part of this provision, the hippos in this zoo have a large water feature to enjoy – it’s really a small lake and they must feel really at home.

Being a water feature, it naturally attracts water loving birds. Two which were hard to overlook were the Little Pied Cormorant and the Little Black Cormorant, both shown in photos below. I’m not sure how many fish they would find in the murky water of the hippo lake, but there they were.

Little Pied Cormorant, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Little Pied Cormorant, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Little Black Cormorant, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Little Black Cormorant, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

As we were watching the cormorants and the hippos I noticed a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo perched high in the branches of a nearby tree. I’m not sure if the cockatoo was checking out the availability of water from the hippo lake, or looking for a hollow to make a nest. Perhaps it was on guard, ready to warn the flock feeding on the ground of approaching danger.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

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