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Sierra Daily

Mar 21, 2011

Silent Spring

Leaping cat

Rachel Carson, of course, wrote the classic wakeup call to the danger posed to birds and other wildlife by DDT. But there's another silent spring that kills half a billion birds each year, and that's sweet l'il pussums jumping an unsuspecting wildfowl. Cats kill 1,000 times as many birds as do the nation's wind turbines, reviled by opponents as "Cuisinarts of the sky." (The vivid phrase was invented "in a fit of hyperbole" by the Sierra Club's late master of vivid phraseology, Bob Hattoy. Story here.)

A new study in the Journal of Ornithology looked at mortality among gray catbirds in suburban Washington, D.C., and found that 80 percent of deaths were attributable to predation--half of them by Puss. The American Bird Conservancy--and Sierra's own Mr. Green--advise that you keep your own kittypets indoors, and trap, neuter, and release neighborhood ferals.

Both the American Bird Conservancy and the Sierra Club support wind power; you can find the Club's policy on siting wind farms here. Why are people so much more exercised about wind turbines than cats? Today's New York Times quoted ABC vice president Gavin Shire:

“The idea of a man-made machine chopping a bird in half creates a visceral reaction,” he said, “while the idea of a predator with its prey in its mouth — well we’ve seen that on the Nature Channel. People’s reaction is that it is normal for cats to kill birds.”

--Paul Rauber

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