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Cat Gets Its Tern: A case study of predation on a threatened coastal seabird

Greenwell, C.N., Calver, M.C.ORCID: 0000-0001-9082-2902 and Loneragan, N.R. (2019) Cat Gets Its Tern: A case study of predation on a threatened coastal seabird. Animals, 9 (7). p. 445.

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Domestic cats have a cosmopolitan distribution, commonly residing in urban, suburban and peri-urban environments that are also critical for biodiversity conservation. This study describes the impact of a desexed, free-roaming cat on the behavior of a threatened coastal seabird, the Australian Fairy Tern, Sternula nereis nereis, in Mandurah, south-western Australia. Wildlife cameras and direct observations of cat incursions into the tern colony at night, decapitated carcasses of adult terns, dead, injured or missing tern chicks, and cat tracks and scats around the colony provided strong evidence of cat predation, which led to an initial change in nesting behavior and, ultimately, colony abandonment and the reproductive failure of 111 nests. The death of six breeding terns from the population was a considerable loss for this threatened species and had the potential to limit population growth. This study highlights the significant negative impacts of free-roaming cats on wildlife and the need for monitoring and controlling cats at sites managed for species conservation. It also provides strong evidence against the practice of trap-neuter-release programs and demonstrates that desexed cats can continue to negatively impact wildlife post-release directly through predation, but also indirectly through fundamental changes in prey behavior and a reduction in parental care.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Publisher: MDPI
Copyright: © 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
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