Suspected cat predation of a northern flicker
This summer a juvenile male yellow-shafted northern flicker was found on a sidewalk in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, injured and unable to fly. The bird was taken to the Small Animal Clinic at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine where examination of the flicker revealed bruising and puncture wounds in both wings. The bird was extremely sick and it was decided to euthanize the bird for humane reasons. An autopsy was performed by the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre and it was determined that the bird had been attacked by a predator but had survived the initial attack and was now dying from a bacterial infection which had spread from the bite injuries to the rest of the body. The bacterium cultured from the organs of this bird is one commonly found in the mouth of cats (Pasteurella multocida) and this finding, along with the size and appearance of the bite wounds, indicated this bird was most likely attacked by a cat.
Domestic cats are an introduced species to North America and when allowed to roam free cause irreparable damage to native wildlife. Although the exact number of birds killed by domestic and feral cats is unknown, estimates are in the range of hundreds of millions of birds killed annually. For example, a recent study in the Journal of Ornithology reported that in a suburban area of Washington DC, 79% of all mortalities in juvenile Gray Catbirds were due to predation and of these, 47% were attributable to domestic cats. Several species of native song birds are on the decline due to a number of factors including; habitat loss, pesticide exposure and, in some cases, cat predation may be a contributing factor. For further information on the effect of cat predation on bird populations go the American Bird Conservancy website. and, for a “cat’s eye view” of the life of a roaming cat, please visit the Kitty Cams Project website.