Editor’s note: This post has originally been posted on 29th May 2018, and has now been updated and republished.
What have cats, cars and wildlife in common? Cats are domesticated companion animals, cars are machines built by humans, and both are able to kill sentient beings when not supervised or controlled. Cars can kill cats and wildlife, and cats can kill wildlife too. Neither of both scenarios is ‘natural’, both are artificial and creations of humans. So what is the impact, and what can be done to keep both, our beloved companion cats and wildlife, safe?
Are corvids cold blooded killers or merely opportunistic scavengers? This is the question we are trying to answer in this blog post. Mainstream media and advertising businesses often have a tendency to present an idyllic and idealised version of farming practices, showcasing for example animals living in picturesque environments. This imagery is employed to evoke positive emotions and create a connection with consumers. It is nothing else than a marketing strategy aimed at promoting the products derived from the use of non-human animals, such as meat or wool, by associating them with positive and wholesome images. Humans have a natural inclination to connect with and appreciate the beauty of animals. The sight of a playful and adorable lamb triggers positive emotions, such as joy and warmth, which does evoke empathy and a sense of compassion.
Bearing this in mind, then it is not surprising that the sight of corvids scavenging on such an innocent being will without a doubt be repulsive for most people, who will immediately sympathise with the victim, and not with the scavenger. Unfortunately, media representations of such wildlife interactions with domesticated non-human animals are commonly very much one-sided, despite the well known fact that it is always essential to consider all nuances and complexities of such interactions.
Media portrayals often focus on dramatic or attention-grabbing stories, which can lead to an exaggerated or sensationalised narrative. While isolated instances of corvid predation on lambs occur, it is essential to keep in mind that wildlife predation is just one among many factors influencing lamb mortality. It is crucial to take scientific research in account, as we will do, when discussing these matters.
We will show the links between mainstream media, their owners and agricultural businesses, and we will demonstrate historical, cultural and psychological background information to explain why a picture of corvids as being coldblooded killers is being painted. We will look into the human psyche, but also at the reality of agricultural businesses.
The winter can be a tough time of year for birds. However, you can give your feathered friends a helping hand. Attracting birds to your garden will be more successful, if they have a place that makes them feel secure and comfortable even in the worst weather. So providing shelter like roosting or nest boxes will help birds to conserve valuable energy, in particular during frosty winter nights and winter storms.
Whilst doing a bit of research around this contentious topic, it became quickly apparent that there is no study or paper to find, which conclusively proves that feeding bread to waterfowl is the sole cause for the development of angel wing deformities. Despite this fact, most wildlife and waterfowl experts seem to agree that the overwhelming cause of angel wing is an unhealthily high protein and / or carbohydrate based diet. Unsurprisingly, it was not difficult to find plenty of advice and warnings suggesting not to feed bread to birds, and in particular not to waterfowl. However, with all the advice being provided, no scientific references were given, which would certainly help to clarify and understand the situation.