June 21, 2011
Predation of Newborn Quail by Housecats Can Be Prevented
By Chad Love
Summertime is here, which of course means that there are a lot of wild animal babies running around. Unfortunately there are also a lot of housecats running around eating them. Each year ground-nesting birds like quail must endure myriad predations of their young by natural enemies like snakes, mammals and other birds. So instead of making the problem worse, why don’t you give the quail a break and keep your fat, precious Smoochy inside this spring, where it belongs...
From this story in the (Prescott Arizona) Daily Courier:
It is heartbreaking to see the numbers of babies diminish over the weeks as quail families frequent your yard. Typically, the first time you see them in your yard, they are "little walnuts on legs." They are so adorable. At first there might be 10, 12 or 15 babies - sometimes even more. However, as they visit your yard over time, you will notice their numbers go down as the babies are lost to a variety of predators - Western scrub-jays, common raven, greater roadrunners, snakes and especially housecats. The sad thing about housecats is that it is so preventable.
Baby quail are defenseless in their ability to get away from cats. Recently hatched baby quail are not capable of flight. Their only defense is camouflage and their ability to run for cover, but it is hard to outrun a cat when you are only an inch or two tall. As the owner of a backyard wild bird store, I field questions from caring, concerned individuals who enjoy attracting wild birds to their yard, but have to contend with a neighbor's cat who is allowed to roam freely. It is interesting how most pet owners wouldn't ever consider letting their dogs roam the neighborhood freely, but don't give a second thought to letting their cats roam freely. It is important to remember that there are both county and city ordinances that prohibit pet owners from allowing their domestic animals to roam freely, be they dogs or cats.
Or better yet, just lose the cat altogether and get a real pet. Like a dog. Any sporting breed will do...