23 February 2015

Predation

Why do cats climb trees? After all, with the structure of their claws, they are far better at climbing up things than climbing back down. This is why fire brigades are frequently called out to rescue cats from rooftops or high branches.

Up our suburban garden there are four mature apple trees which soar in a gnarled kind of way twenty five feet from the ground. Yesterday morning I noticed something very high in the middle tree - a young black cat. He was on one of the loftiest branches and fearing for his safety I watched some more.

Near to him on an even higher branch was a magpie. Even from our kitchen I could hear the bird cackling at the cat. As the magpie hopped over to a higher branch, the cat seemed infuriated and eager to follow.

Then I noticed a couple of other magpies in two neighbouring trees and two crows flew in as well and there was a jay. They all kept dancing about and it struck me that they were in fact  bating the cat, deliberately daring it to climb higher. They were making the young animal risk its life - I am sure of it.

If the young cat fell to the ground he could easily be fatally injured and then the feathered omnivores would enjoy a feline feast of fresh young cat meat. This is a phenomenon I have never observed before though I am well aware that members of the crow family are highly intelligent, cunning and inventive.

We think of cats as predators but on this occasion, though Tiddles didn't know it, the gang of birds were the true predators. The tops of trees are avian territory and that young cat had climbed out of his comfort zone. The birds were willing and able to make a meal of him. Either that or they had just invented a daring new sport called "Tease a Cat".

17 comments:

  1. I have seen magpies hunting..and they are clever and violent killers
    i often see a load of them cackling over something on the field borders
    A cat, Albert or a fox

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    1. You need to send Albert to Rhyl to get some karate lessons or pepper spray.

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  2. "Tease a Cat" ~ a game the whole family can play. Seriously though ~ yes I have had crows bail my cats up in the past when they are stranded without cover in the backyard. Presently it seems to be the Indian mynah birds that work together to scare the cat if she is outside. Like you say we are always being told that domestic cats are responsible for the loss of much wildlife ~ that they are nocturnal hunters and should be kept locked up at night. Did you climb the tree to rescue Tiddles or call the fire brigade? I had to call the fire brigade once to rescue our new kitten ~ she had put her head through the hole in the back of the TV cabinet where the cords go through. I was so scared I would break her neck if I tried to get her out ~ and the thought of doing that was enough to ring the fire brigade. Brody was a little tacker and I didn't think he needed to see his Mum killing his new kitten. She is still with us.

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    1. I wonder what the fire officers said as they were riding back to the fire station?
      No I didn't rescue Tiddles. Fortunately, for whatever reason, he was able to descend without injury. Cats 1 Birds 0.

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  3. I can totally believe they knew exactly what they were doing to the cat! Birds are far, far more intelligent and interesting than most people ever notice. I've rescued and released a lot of wild birds in my life, and hand raised a lot of parrots, and I have some great stories I could tell. And speaking of birds tormenting cats, mockingbirds have got to take the prize for viciousness. The'll take turns dive-bombing cats, until the cat can get under cover. Sometimes they do it even when they're not nesting.....just for fun, I imagine!

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    1. "To Kill a Domestic Cat" by Harper Mockingbird.

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  4. Something I've never observed but I tend to agree that they were baiting it.

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    1. Like I say it was as if they wanted the cat to climb higher and risk its life.

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  5. I can't believe how this post has so much to do with my newest post. Nature and how we, as humans, react to it. Or, how they react to it! Bless the cat! And, bless the birds. This is the timeline of nature.

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    1. Great minds think alike Mama Thyme.

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  6. Corvids will swarm things that they see as a threat. They rarely kill anything but make one hell of a racket.

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    1. They were deliberately drawing that cat higher Red. I believe there was more to this behaviour than just creating an alarm.

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  7. What happened in the end? Did the cat manage to get back down on the ground unharmed?
    I often hear the blackbird alarm going off in the mornings and know that it means Lucky, my downstairs neighbours' cat, is in the garden. The blackbirds follow him round, and sometimes magpies join in and everybody shouts at Lucky who pretends to be totally unfazed by the racket.

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    1. Yes Meike, the cat did get down and scuttled off. Our apple trees are not just straight up. They are gnarled with twisty horizontal branches - making escape a bit easier.

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  8. It's certainly an interesting and plausible theory YP. I'm glad the cat managed to return to terra firma unscathed. Unless, that is, his psyche was irreparably scarred.

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  9. It's early in the year for birds to just be defending their nests or young, so I think you're quite right in your observations. Here's another one: some cats mostly only hunt rodents, some specialize in birds. A few others will hunt both. Big old Biscuit, the tom cat that hangs out on my front porch, only hunts rodents and the birds seem to know that. The hummingbird feeder is only about 4 feet from his bed, the birds know he's there but don't dive bomb him the way they do other cats that happen up on the porch. He can walk right past my pigeons as they lounge on the lawn in the sunshine, and they ignore him. Mice, moles, cottontails, and squirrels stay completely away from his territory.

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  10. I hope the kitty was fine in the end. Mine ignore the birds around here and the birds ignore them. I opened my sliding door a couple of days ago to toss out the meat scraps for the native birds...I do this every afternoon and suddenly something landed on my left hand and just sat there, refusing to budge, for a few minutes...it was a kookaburra...about two inches from my face. We both looked at each other and I let him stay as long as he wanted. It was a wonderful experience. :)

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