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Monday, November 12, 2012

Bird-On-Bird Hate Crime/Dinner Time on Seattle's Capitol Hill

Posted by on Mon, Nov 12, 2012 at 7:12 PM

599020_469458983096531_1885735650_n.jpeg

A snowy owl—that's a snowy owl, right?—was spotted making a leisurely meal of a seagull at 11th and John earlier this evening. A small crowd gathered across the street to watch, take pictures, and prevent cars from pulling into the parking space where the owl was enjoying her seagull tartare. "That's not a cat?" a woman repeatedly asked. She repeatedly assured that, no, the owl was eating a seagull, not a cat. But if the owl had been eating a cat? Let's just say that the cat had it coming all along:

The American Bird Conservancy estimates that up to 500 million birds are killed each year by cats—about half by pets and half by feral felines. “I hope we can now stop minimizing and trivializing the impacts that outdoor cats have on the environment and start addressing the serious problem of cat predation,” said Darin Schroeder, the group’s vice president for conservation advocacy.

The photo was taken by Dave Lichterman. You can follow David on Twitter at @lavid and there are more examples of his work—and more pics of the owl and his dinner—on his Facebook page.

 

Comments (56) RSS

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56
I look forward to the day I see an owl eat a vegan.
Posted by Mister G on November 15, 2012 at 11:16 AM · Report this
55
@54 Tried that. The bell drove him nuts and he kept ditching the collars. Also, bells would prevent the cat from catching rodents, which is highly desirable under almost all circumstances.

@32 I looked at your links, and the first one is about Australia. Cats haven't been there as long as they've been in North America, and I don't know if any Shakespeare-loving idiots stupidly imported any English songbirds there. The equilibrium, if any, between the introduced mesopredator and the native birds may not the be same as in North America. Because of this (and because reading the article would cost $31.50) I focused on the second link.

The second study was conducted in North America. It seems to be saying was that cats did eat lots of birds but it doesn't specifically say whether or not they were damage done. Cat predation was found to be independent of cat population density. I've read elsewhere that cats' hunting territories shrink if they must compete with other cats. One of the reasons I didn't keep my non-insano cat indoors was because we had so many strays in the area and I believed they'd take over any territory that she didn't use. In this way, the findings of this paper are consistent with the belief that allowing my pet cats outside did not cause significant additional damage.

It also seems that lots of researchers agree with me: "Because domestic cats have coexisted with humans for centuries, Fitzgerald and Turner (2000) argue that any continental population of birds that could not withstand predation by cats would have been extirpated long ago. Another perspective holds that cats are simply occupying the role of a natural predator. That is, cats are assumed to fill a role similar to that of species such as raccoons (Procyon lotor), skunks (Mephitis mephitis), and raptors. A final point that has been made is that people simply observe avian depredation by cats more than other natural phenomena because it takes place during the day time and often close to the house, which results in the assumption that cats are reducing bird populations (see Patronek, 1998 for details)."

I notice that the second paper mentions specific species, naming which ones are threatened and which aren't. That's good. Drawing distinctions between native and introduced bird species would be even better. No one should mind that my cats ate starlings and other European birds.

As to the lack of correlation that these researchers found between the level of respondent education and the tendency to allow cats outside, I can answer that right now: It's not that people aren't hearing the message. It's that the request is not reasonable. Even among cat owners whose pets do not become violent if kept indoors, it constitutes a moderate lifestyle change.

This makes me wonder. We have studies of cat predation on birds, but what about rodents? In the northeast, the deer ticks that cause lyme disease are carried by the white-footed mouse far more than by deer. I wonder if cats have any effect on the prevalence of lyme. ...but then, the white-footed mice are also eating those nasty invasive gypsy moth larvae... Hm.
More...
Posted by DRF on November 13, 2012 at 1:32 PM · Report this
54
If your cat must go outdoors, put several bells on its collar. Problem solved (usually).
Posted by mitten on November 13, 2012 at 1:15 PM · Report this
53
It should also be mentioned that at least 100 million birds are killed every year by window strikes. Many cities are working to reduce deaths, especially during migration, by dimming lights on tall buildings, closing blinds, etc.
Posted by Squirrel Cop on November 13, 2012 at 12:55 PM · Report this
52
@37 Deal. I've had one cat who had to be indoor-outdoor for behavioral reasons, but I've had others who might have tolerated being indoor-only. I didn't see the point because there were already lots of other cats who would have taken the territory if BFSC or GC had not and because we're not near any bird sanctuaries, but fine. You got a deal. I accept the negligible damage that my pets have done to the local populations of robins and finches as well as starlings and other introduced bird species. As I've often said before, if I wanted a pet that didn't kill things, I wouldn't have gotten a cat.
Posted by DRF on November 13, 2012 at 12:09 PM · Report this
51
@17 "Dumbass excuse"? That cat lived to be fourteen. If I'd kept him indoor-only, he'd have died of a heart attack or court-mandated putdown by the age of five. Some can handle indoor-only. Some mew at the door but are otherwise okay. Some go insane. My cat was one of those last. He actually did get hit by a car once, and tangled with other animals many times. What killed him? Diabetes.

@30 The cat I mentioned above? We got him from a litter. He had never been outside except. We'd planned for him to be indoor-only, but he became violent. We let him go outside and all the problems evaporated within weeks. And we know it wasn't just aging because whenever we had to keep him in, like for a snowstorm, he'd go nuts again.

@32 Thanks for the links. I stand by what I said: There are places in North America where keeping all cats indoors would not make any difference because any damage they could do was done before 1850. Look at it this way, if I took public transit into the city, it would be better for the environment, but it would take three times as long as driving. Telling cat owners to make all cats indoor-only no matter what is unreasonable. Saying, "Here are the three critical fledging weeks for bird species your area; keep the cat inside then if reasonably practical" is a bit more like, "Take the bus a few times a month." It might actually work and it doesn't demonstrate any gross ignorance about what cats are actually like.
Posted by DRF on November 13, 2012 at 12:03 PM · Report this
CATSPAW666 50
Fuck Birds.
Posted by CATSPAW666 on November 13, 2012 at 12:03 PM · Report this
Anti-m 49
Huh, you know, I suspect the woman repeatedly asking, "That's not a cat?" was talking about the OWL, not the seagull. Cats and owls can look awfully similar -- and that similarity is a good example of convergent evolution.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convergent_…
Posted by Anti-m on November 13, 2012 at 11:40 AM · Report this
48
Also cats are 100% pure evil, but with warm fur, big eyes and purring. In other words: totally awesome.
Posted by Friendstastegood on November 13, 2012 at 10:30 AM · Report this
47
My answer to all of the problems regarding cats listed in this thread, on both sides of the argument, stable-cats. Not as in mentally stable, but stable as in where you keep horses. My cousins have horses, and a stable, and cats in said stable. The cats get plenty of cat-food and cuddles when they want, they get to roam free and hunt as much as they want (almost exclusively prey from the rodent family, although one of them once caught a common European viper, which are endangered here in Sweden) and they don't generally play with living things before killing them, also they eat what they kill most of the time. Intestinal parasites and tics can be a problem but not a big one so long as you check for tics and de-worm them regularly. Since stables are generally located outside of cities they don't usually get killed by traffic either. Cats belong in stables.
Posted by Friendstastegood on November 13, 2012 at 10:28 AM · Report this
46
I will never understand why a person would want to own a cat. Nevertheless, that photo is awesome!!
Posted by Totalpukoid on November 13, 2012 at 8:44 AM · Report this
45
That is a fantastic photo. I've often seen owls at night, but I've never seen one eating anything.

And as far as I'm concerned, my cats can eat as many house finches as they can catch. The damn birds breed worse than mice and there are hundreds here. Fortunately for the birds the cats aren't very interested in them, but instead go for voles and mice. Some of us let our cats outside during the day for a reason and that reason is pest control.
Keeping cats indoors at night seems to keep them alive for close to twenty years around here.
Posted by swing state voter on November 13, 2012 at 7:40 AM · Report this
44
Bells on cats don't work particularly well, because the cats learn how to move without ringing the bell. I got my cat a birds-be-safe collar (www.birdsbesafe.com) which has worked great. The birds see the brightly colored collar and fly away. If you like allowing your cat outside and also care about species survival, check these collars out!
Posted by Drusilla on November 13, 2012 at 7:34 AM · Report this
43
@42: Riiiight, on account of Utah being, you know, so near the ocean and all. Except that, well I was just gullible enough to google it, and you weren't kidding! The California Gull, state bird of Utah. Something to do with Utah having this big salty lake, which, come to think of it, I'd heard of before.
Posted by Eric from Boulder on November 13, 2012 at 7:18 AM · Report this
Pick1 42
Here in Utah that owl just committed a crime. Fucking seagulls being our state bird and all
Posted by Pick1 on November 13, 2012 at 6:53 AM · Report this
41
@18 - Thanks for the vid link. Interspecies friends - such adorable liberal PBS propaganda...
Posted by MemeGene on November 13, 2012 at 4:37 AM · Report this
40
this is a nice distraction,
to keep the minds of the credulous greedy grasping Moocher Class off the impending Fiscal Crisis.
best not to discuss that their Mooching Lifestyle is on the chopping block.
in 48 days....
Posted by Prosperity=Seagull. Obama=Owl. yumyum. on November 13, 2012 at 2:47 AM · Report this
39
Uh...

Who gives a shit?
Posted by blarglkasdfj asld on November 13, 2012 at 2:10 AM · Report this
emor 38
I love this photo.

I am sympathetic to the dangers of allowing cats to roam free. I am lucky in that my own cat likely suffers from some combination of kitty introversion and kitty asperger's -- she's a freak and is 100% okay with not being the slightest bit curious about the weird world outside the window.
Posted by emor on November 13, 2012 at 1:19 AM · Report this
37
Cool pic! That is one bad-ass owl.

And cat-lovers who rationalize why Mitten MUST be allowed outside: accept some responsibility.

View it as comparable to being an omnivore: yes, it is better for the planet, and my health, and for the animals that I eat, for me to go vegan. But I LIKE meat. Yum. So I continue to eat meat despite it not being optimal for the planet, or my health, or certainly for the critters I eat.

Likewise, an owner of an indoor-outdoor cat should bite the bullet and accept some fucking responsibility: yes, Mittens is a human-introduced predator to North America, and contributes to a devastating problem for native birds. But you LIKE Mittens, and she's happier when she can go outside. So you keep her, and continue to allow her outside, despite it not being optimal for the native wildlife, especially the birds, where you live.

That is all.
Posted by Functional Atheist on November 13, 2012 at 12:37 AM · Report this
36
@15 As an owner of two outdoor cats and bird enthusiast who happens to be on the Bird Conservancy mailing list, the issue is not so black and white (birds are stupid, cats rock or vise versa). Learn a few facts, their website is very informative.
Ditto @32.
Posted by hayfromstraw on November 13, 2012 at 12:31 AM · Report this
35
Good Owl those damn Seagulls are loud, dirty and annoying. This might be a benefit of Global Warming if those snowy owls are going to be around here more. I hope they also eat pigeons!
Posted by eric1972sea on November 13, 2012 at 12:12 AM · Report this
34
Stop building tall buildings and let the cats roam free! (but spay or neuter them).
Posted by Pussy Galore on November 12, 2012 at 11:44 PM · Report this
watchout5 33
Make them wear bells.
Posted by watchout5 http://www.overclockeddrama.com on November 12, 2012 at 11:32 PM · Report this
32
@15

Saying that cats have been on the continent for 400 years is kind of disingenuous. I mean things like climate change and disease have been around since time immemorial, but they still represent risks to species. Just because it appears that there is an equilibrium doesn't mean that there aren't ongoing negative effects. Domestic and feral cats remain a stressor on various populations through not only direct predation, but by altering the behaviour patterns of prey species and by introducing diseases and parasites. Note some of these effects would not be negated by only occasionally keeping domestic cats indoors.

Even if domestic and feral cats aren't directly wiping out species (although they have done so several times in the past), they still put stress on populations which in conjunction with stress from habitat destruction, climate change and other factors which threaten the long term survival of many species. No one is saying that cats are the greatest ecological threat we face, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't recognize and act on the harm they cause.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/art…

http://archive.csis.msu.edu/Publications…

Some non-birder research I found in a minutes of poking around. There's more in depth and more recent stuff around if you feel like putting effort into looking for it. As an environmental scientist I agree with the spirit of your comment and the view expressed in the second paper, that various parties need to come together to form some sort of acceptable solution. However cat owners in my experience are the party which is really loathe to do so, to the point where colleagues tend to joke about coyotes and possum traps as the answer.
More...
Posted by Hanging in C.C on November 12, 2012 at 11:14 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 31
Goddammit it. @17.
Posted by Free Lunch on November 12, 2012 at 11:06 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 30
To be fair to the owl, it probably did this for survival, whereas house cats kill for fun. Otherwise, my cat would kill the bird seconds after trapping it rather than 15 minutes later.

@15 - I have one of those cats that can't abide being indoors, but then, I got her when she was already an outdoor cat. First taste of blood and all of that. No going back.

But I guess to be honest, it was I who couldn't abide a cat who howled at the window all day, every day, for weeks on end before relenting. No amount of dead birds tops that.
Posted by Free Lunch on November 12, 2012 at 11:05 PM · Report this
29
I do enjoy the comments about just letting the cats run free and kill at will because of their nature and they may get upset but as soon as someone on slog notices a dog on the loose everyone goes Ape Shit.
We want Marriage not Domestic Partnerships but we want Domesticated animals not Animals.
Its kinda funny that we assume animals must change behavior because that is what we want but yet being gay is not a choice and I say that as a Gay Pitt Bull Owner!
Posted by Gay Guy for Pitt Bulls on November 12, 2012 at 10:58 PM · Report this
28
Wow, thanks for all the nice comments on the photo. This was quite the sight to come home to! As Dan mentioned, you can find more shots on my dinky little facebook page, here: http://on.fb.me/Q9yHSn
Posted by laviddichterman on November 12, 2012 at 10:58 PM · Report this
icouldliveinhope 27
Dan, I totally thought this was a Mudede post at first. Great job!
Posted by icouldliveinhope on November 12, 2012 at 10:58 PM · Report this
26
Gorgeous.
Posted by kersy on November 12, 2012 at 10:54 PM · Report this
thatsnotright 25
PBS.com has a "Nature" episode on Snowy Owls available. Apparently, the juveniles all come south for their 1st winter because they are not yet skilled enough to survive the polar winter. They go as far south as the midwest. @15, of course bird conservenies are going to study cat predation, who else would, Cat Fancy Magazine? They are the single greatest threat to many currently endangered American songbirds. Starlings,English Sparrows and pigeons all come from Europe, where they evolved along with cats. Cat owners need to take some responsibility for their pets.
Posted by thatsnotright on November 12, 2012 at 10:48 PM · Report this
Cephalodude 24
If there is one thing I have learned from my wildlife biologist boyfriend that specializes in owls, it's that owls are 100% badass. They takes what theys want.
Posted by Cephalodude on November 12, 2012 at 10:46 PM · Report this
23
My cat likes life best coming and going freely despite the risks, the cat chooses in or out.

There are plenty of birds in the back yard, but not near the ground. I miss seeing reptiles, but you have to choose between friends in this one case, lizards and snakes thrive in the nearby hills, I'm not too worried for their numbers.

I've known lots of free roaming cats and lots of house cats. To make beasts happy I say let them do what they like.

Back to the topic: cheers for the happy owl, we have some pretty spiffy hawks here but you almost never see the owls, only collections of mouse skeletons under this one tree . . .
Posted by SifuMark on November 12, 2012 at 10:42 PM · Report this
chibby 22
Great photo!What a rare spotting(pun intended)
Posted by chibby on November 12, 2012 at 10:35 PM · Report this
21
This is right by my apartment. Was truly a delight to get to watch her for forty minutes. She was there all evening, giving zero fucks about passerby and having her way with that gull. Beautiful, badass bird.
Posted by TomTom on November 12, 2012 at 10:33 PM · Report this
wilbur@work 20
our cats regularly behead and eat robins and sparrows, who try to fly thru our front window but bounce off and are temporary stunned. Both cats are well fed and are kept inside every night. We let them out every morning, to hunt and otherwise be top predators, purely for sport and snax.

Every year, tens of robins and sparrows are hatched in our yard, in our extensive bamboo, trees and shrubbery. Most fly off to wherever, but the weak are killed and eaten.

Blow me, Darin.
Posted by wilbur@work on November 12, 2012 at 10:29 PM · Report this
Sandiai 19
@9. Goldy. Aggh! Do you mean the pigeon's mate or the seagull's??

Posted by Sandiai on November 12, 2012 at 10:05 PM · Report this
Ipso Facto 18
For a much more uplifting look at cross-species animal relationships, watch the latest episode of PBS's Nature: "Animal Odd Couples", exploring animal friendships and the implications for our understanding of animal psychology and emotion.

You will marvel the friendships between a dog and a cheetah, a goat and a blind horse, a lion and a coyote, a dog and a bunny, a cat and a snowy owl, two cases of a dog and a deer, and of course, a monkey riding a dog.

Prepare to die of squee from about 24:30 -26:05.

Oh yah, and uh... GO VEGAN!
Posted by Ipso Facto http://therealnews.com on November 12, 2012 at 10:00 PM · Report this
Mark in Colorado 17
@15 "because a good chunk of cats can't handle indoor-only"

Oh please. The dumbass excuses never end when it comes to cat lovers. Well I have no problem if someone runs over a cat or if a cat goes missing. Out here in the bumfuck rural suburbs of Denver cats are fair game for coyotes. Keep 'em inside you idiot cat owners or they get what they deserve.
Posted by Mark in Colorado on November 12, 2012 at 9:45 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 16
Where's Fnarf? He's usually the one using these stats to convince us of the threat posed to decent society by the unterfeline.
Posted by Matt from Denver on November 12, 2012 at 9:26 PM · Report this
15
Of course the BIRD conservancy would say that about cats. Cats have been on this continent for four hundred years. There are going to be places where their effects are damage done. I'd love to see a study NOT done by a bird organization that evaluates the current effects that Felis catus has on bird populations in North America. Mine certainly caught their share. All those baby STARLINGS.

You know what might work? Cat owners aren't going to listen to whining birders who say "Just make kitty indoor-only!" because a good chunk of cats can't handle indoor-only, and when I say "can't handle it," I mean "become uncontrollably violent." But since birds are most vulnerable to cats during the fledging period, a list of the most threatened native songbirds, their locations and perhaps their three most vulnerable weeks might convince cat owners to don the clawproof HAZMAT suits for short periods of time every year.
Posted by DRF on November 12, 2012 at 8:52 PM · Report this
Gern Blanston 14
Juvenile delinquent owls have also been dive bombing people in local parks.

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/17824…
Posted by Gern Blanston on November 12, 2012 at 8:51 PM · Report this
chimsquared 13
Thank god they kept the vegans away from the owl. It would have been looked at condescendingly and given a stern rebuke.
Posted by chimsquared on November 12, 2012 at 8:46 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 12
The cycle of life continues.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on November 12, 2012 at 8:22 PM · Report this
11
It's been a couple years since we've had a snowy overwintering on the hill; a crowd of us saw her this morning near Lladro on 15th getting hassled by a flock of crows. The crows called in reinforcements from surrounding blocks to chase her off.
Posted by madrone.a on November 12, 2012 at 8:10 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 10
This proves my politics are correct and your politics are wrong.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on November 12, 2012 at 7:52 PM · Report this
Goldy 9
Years ago I was watching from my apartment as two pigeons did a sort of mating dance on the rooftop across the street. One pigeon was circling the other when it strolled too close to a seagull, who grabbed it and snapped its neck with one good shake. The seagull and its mate (I assumed) then shared the bloody feast.

So yeah, @5, the seagull had it coming.
Posted by Goldy on November 12, 2012 at 7:46 PM · Report this
OutInBumF 8
A snowy owl at 11th & John??!!! The Apocalypse is upon us; getchur guns, Mama!
Posted by OutInBumF on November 12, 2012 at 7:42 PM · Report this
7
Oh, come on, leave the cats alone. Sex questions, politics, that's your thing. Ecology is something else. Why would you have an agenda on that??
Posted by secretchord on November 12, 2012 at 7:31 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 6
Hedwig WHAT have you done to Jonathan?
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on November 12, 2012 at 7:29 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 5
That seagull had it coming.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on November 12, 2012 at 7:27 PM · Report this
4
why are we posting random shit like this when the book is not done?
Posted by are all of our crayons broken? on November 12, 2012 at 7:27 PM · Report this
3
Heard a barred owl at sand point a few nights ago. Such an eerie call they have.
Posted by sanotehu on November 12, 2012 at 7:26 PM · Report this
ams_ 2
That's an awesome photo. Two years ago I saw a hawk take down a crow, and gorily eat it, in the middle of the city.

Stupid cats!
Posted by ams_ on November 12, 2012 at 7:26 PM · Report this
Chelydra_serpentina 1
Yep, a Snowy Owl. Young, probably female. I don't think they're usually seen this far south at this time of year.
Posted by Chelydra_serpentina on November 12, 2012 at 7:24 PM · Report this

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