Blackbirds are commonly found in urban and rural areas and have therefore long been easy prey for the predator-cat. But a recent, controversial study indicates the problem may be far greater than imagined. According to an analysis published in the journal Nature Communications, outdoor cats (feral and owned) are the leading cause of bird deaths in the United States, killing 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds each year. Many of those dead birds are blackbirds.
The American blackbird, a species of the true thrush (turdus merula), is commonly seen throughout North America. The red-winged blackbird and rusty blackbird are found in the Eastern states, while the Brewer's blackbird, yellow-headed blackbird and tricolored blackbird are seen in the Central regions to the Western coastlines. Often crows or ravens are called blackbirds because of their black color. But neither crows or ravens are truly "blackbirds" because they come from a different species.
Cat have a natural instinct to hunt and chase, but that doesn't make them natural born killers. Before kittens leave the litter the mother cat teaches her babies how to kill to survive/eat. Cats typically stun their prey using the claws of their forepaws, and then deliver a quick, killing blow with their jaws and sharp teeth. A blackbird that has sustained an injury by a cat will in all likelihood need immediate attention.
Rx for Birds
If you find an injured blackbird, immediately keep it away from the predator-cat. Pick the bird up, using a thick towel or gloves. Always handle with extreme care since a bird's bones are delicate and injure easily from handling. Contain the bird in a box or shoe box to keep it safe, and then take it to a wildlife rescue or to a veterinarian's office for urgent care.
Any animal, including birds, that have been attacked by a cat or dog should be brought to a rehabilitator or vet as soon as possible -- even if it looks healthy and uninjured. (If the blackbird seems healthy and has a nest nearby, do not remove it because its young will die.) The main concern with any bird injury is infection. Even the smallest scratch from a cat's claws or teeth can cause deadly septicaemia. Antibiotic treatment is required immediately.
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- Washington Post: Outdoor Cats Kill Between 1.4 Billion and 3.7 Billion Birds a Year, Study Says
- NPR: Do We Really Know That Cats Kill By the Billions? Not So Fast
- Classic Collection of North American Birds: Blackbirds
- Perfect Paws: Predatory Behavior of Cats
- Crow Systems: Orphaned and Injured Birds
- Photo Credit David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images