Death by cat

Nesting box

This is an unwelcome sight for any bird lover.

The thing about nature is that it’s not all happiness and roses. The joy of watching birds at work can quickly turn to sorrow when it’s all destroyed.

I was so excited to have chickadees nesting on my deck. I pulled my chair up to the window to watch the constant interaction at the nest while the mom came to sit on the eggs and the expectant dad hovered to feed her. It was truly beautiful and I really couldn’t stop watching them.

I watched them until dark and checked in on them first thing in the morning. One day at 6 a.m. I woke up to stillness. Feathers dotted the nesting box and were strewn on the railing. As I inched closer I saw the momma bird – dead on the railing. A few feathers were still attached to her.


As I stood there, at least four chickadees came to branches on the nearby tree. They stared. Finally one came and hovered at the nesting box. He left and I haven’t seen a chickadee since.

I emailed photos to the naturalists at the Monroe County Environmental Education Center. They quickly returned the verdict. Death by cat.

That’s the only thing it could be, they said, looking at the tell-tale signs.

My cat was inside, but they said a neighborhood cat would have jumped up on the railing and reached inside the box while the mom was resting on the eggs. She didn’t have a chance.

Two things the naturalists told me. The hole is too big on the nesting box. The nesting box that came with the house shouldn’t be on the deck. There’s no protection.

Would a gate have helped? Probably not.

The same week a friend told me he caught a neighbor’s cat up climbing up onto a planter to attack goldfinches at a feeder. He actually caught the feline red-pawed with a bird in its mouth. He intervened and the bird got away. So did the cat.

Lesson learned? Researchers estimate that cats kill more than 100 million birds in the United States each year.

Cats will do what comes naturally. It’s still up to us to help nature wherever we can. That means looking at where we place feeders and nesting boxes and making sure we provide proper nesting boxes.

If your neighbors are receptive, you can approach them. Frankly, if they cared, the cats wouldn’t be running loose.

If not, it’s really up to us to protect the birds.

Are we creating a safe environment or are we luring birds to their deaths?

Admit it, we’re selfish. We want to have nature as close to our window as possible. But if that means putting them in danger, we need to provide adequate shelter on higher branches and be satisfied observing through binoculars.

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