Cats stalking adorable and helpless birds is the stuff of cartoon legend, starting with the lovable Tweety Bird.
But a study of bird kills by domesticated house cats in the District suburbs found that it is no laughing matter.
The study, published recently in the Journal of Ornithology, chronicled predatory behavior by free-roaming cats that happens many times over in cities and suburbs nationwide, resulting in up to a half-billion bird kills each year.
Domesticated cats pounced on baby birds, often after they first flew from their nests, at three sites that were studied in Takoma Park and Bethesda, wreaking havoc on local ecosystems.
“Cats are predators, non-native predators,” said Peter Marra, a research scientist at the Migratory Bird Center of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. “Cats are the only domesticated animal that’s allowed to roam free,” Marra said. “Cats need to be put indoors. They cause major reductions in a number of animals and birds.”