Saturday 7 December 2019

From a Flying Fauntleroy to forsaken felines

'Strays and wild cats decimate our already endangered songbirds.'
'Strays and wild cats decimate our already endangered songbirds.'

Fiona O'Connell

Little Flying Fauntleroy, the posh pigeon who has been roughing it around this rural neighbourhood, is surviving winter. With a little help from a few featherless friends, that is.

He likes to perch on a roof near the bridge in this country town, where appropriately enough he can look down on the rest of us - while enjoying a bird's-eye view of the various volunteers who prove there is indeed such a thing as a free lunch (provided you are an impressive-looking pigeon).

For Flying Fauntleroy keeps to himself, his amber eyes alert in case you come too close to the wall where he likes to lunch. Though this fugitive from pigeon fancying seems to fancy John, one of his birdseed Samaritans. He literally gets in a flap when he spots his car approaching, even landing on the windscreen.

Maybe because this bodyguard - or birdyguard - stands watch while he eats, thus thwarting the crows that perch on the railings of the bridge when Fauntleroy is about to feast. Sometimes these big, black birds try to bully the white-winged pigeon. He bravely calls their bluff, prancing towards them with his pigeon chest puffed out. But John is his back-up and bird bouncer par excellence.

However, John isn't able to bird-sit at night. He wonders why this once pampered pigeon endures the elements instead of seeking shelter in the nearby ancient watchtower.

But there's nothing bird-brained about Fauntleroy keeping clear of that crumbling castle. For several feral cats live there.

Strays and wild cats decimate our already endangered songbirds. As I was reminded when I visited an apparently lovely farm - until I noticed far too many cats creeping about - and a corresponding distinct lack of birdsong.

For moggies multiply at an alarming rate unless you (cat) nip it in the bud. My car had to crawl through another rural area recently because of all the skinny cats and kittens flitting about. The pussycat overpopulation could be traced back to one residence that fortunately had started dealing with the dilemma. But before how many little creatures had paid the price?

John tells me that they impose a cat curfew in Australia for this reason. Alas, all too often the Irish approach to animal welfare involves not so much doing things differently as doing nothing much at all. Whether out of ignorance, idleness or both, the attitude is to "let nature take its course". Yet we are the ones who cause the problem. Therefore we are the ones who must fix it.

Because, apart from the devastation wreaked on our wildlife, these forsaken felines suffer disease, starvation and other hardships. Killing them is both cruel and pointless, since new feral cats simply move into the territory. The only kind and effective solution is spay and neuter.

For neither felines nor Little Flying Fauntleroys are a million miles from us in loving liberty as well as their creature comforts.

Find a balance of both and you're flying.

Sunday Independent

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