We’re All Part of the Band

Fall Short

The Allegheny Front Migratory Observatory catch migrating songbirds in fine “mist” nets, make careful measurements, place uniquely numbered bands on the bird’s legs, and release them unharmed. From September through October, you can observe the group on top of a 4,000 foot mountain in the Dolly Sods wilderness in West Virginia.

            I was privileged to hear the rapid heartbeat of an oven bird before releasing it after being tagged. WOW!  

            Conversations with group members revealed that song bird populations are declining. Worldwide habitat loss is the number one threat to birds. The burning of rainforests, a continent away, affects our native birds who spend winters south.

             In the continental U.S., the number one threat to birds is cats. Cats kill 1.4 to 3.7 BILLION, yes, BILLION birds each year. (Data from a study conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and published in Nature Communications.) The southern bird populations are affected by our refusal to keep our pets inside.

 Translation: Humans are the greatest threat to bird populations.

            How birds play their part in the world:

  • Pollinate flowers
  • Disperse seeds
  • Keep rodent populations in check
  • Are food for native wild species
  • Control insect populations (thus avoiding plagues and increase crop production). Birds eat 400 to 500 MILLION TONS of insects annually including Lyme disease carrying ticks.
  • Scavenger birds clean up decomposing carcasses and help prevent outbreaks of diseases such as tuberculosis and rabies.

            I’ve observed my neighbor open her door and let her cat outside to roam. Cooper goes under the neighbor’s deck to poop. Then comes down to my bird feeders to kill birds. At night, the cat goes back inside. That is, until the neighbor passed away. Now Cooper is part of the growing feral cat population.

            The cat has avoided capture. Even if captured, he is now too wild to make a suitable pet. Feral cat populations are the result of human irresponsibility.

            Our cat, Polly, lived a content 20 years inside and never killed a bird. Polly didn’t need to go outside and be in touch with her inner mountain lion. In the same respect, my dog doesn’t need to roam free to be in touch with her natural instincts. The Australian Shepherd would herd the neighborhood children into my yard. The FBI has more important matters to pursue than kidnapping charges against my dog.

            Dog owners must abide by laws and license and leash their pets. You don’t need laws to do the right thing. Curb feral cat populations by not adding to it. Spay Fluffy. Neuter Mr. Paws. Give your cat toys.


            We’re all part of the worldwide band. Play your part.

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