Latest Science Study of Birdsbesafe® Collar Covers Looking for Cats in New Zealand

Posted on November 30, 2015 by Nancy Brennan

Dr. Heidy Kikillus has initiated a new field study of the Birdsbesafe® cat collar cover. She is a researcher associated with Victoria University of Wellington, and the study is in cooperation with the university and the Wellington City Council, both in New Zealand.

We're glad that the study will try to shed more light on how the beautiful local birds of New Zealand may respond to the bright colors of Birdsbesafe® collar covers. Here is one of the several articles that came out about the study, recently. For details about participating in the study if you're in the Wellington area, look here.

We perfected our product in North America, where our customers commonly say it stops cats from catching birds "almost completely". An independent St. Lawrence University study, published in early 2015, found about an 87% reduction in birds caught by cats that wear our product. Terrific validation!

The commonly preyed-upon songbirds in the U.S., Canada and Europe perceive bright colors very well due to their special eye anatomy (more rods and a fourth cone specialized for bright color perception). We're confident in how very well our product works to protect songbirds in these geographic areas.

We don't just use any random colors or patterns, either. After seven years of research, we use our exclusive time-tested 25-point "fabric formula" for optimum results. Our Birdsbesafe® fabrics have the right colors and patterns to warn birds best in the North American and European countries, based on research that began in 2008, customer feedback, and analysis.

Geographic Differences?

New Zealand's birds, including the birds that are hunted by local housecats, are different from the songbird species in my backyard in Vermont. Some species may be similar, but some commonly preyed upon bird species in New Zealand are not songbirds at all, and we are not sure what their color vision abilities are. It's an area of ongoing research.

An Australian university-led study of our product (see past blog posts for details) found less effectiveness for the Birdsbesafe® collar covers that they tested, compared to the North American study. The Australian study showed a 54% reduction in capture-rates of birds and lizards in species that see color well when specific patterns of Birdsbesafe® cover were used. (The lizard protection was a new revelation to science! Very cool.)

But we (and the scientists) and not totally certain why the protective effect was less than in the North American study. Is that because there is a performance difference in reality, or did the cats in the Perth study somehow choose not to prey on enough birds to making the findings of protection really clear, statistically? Few of the cats in the study caught birds at all. In contrast, the North American study included cats that were frequently targeted birds. (And our customers, generally, have cats that target birds--hence their quest for a solution.)

Other questions remain, and these are ones that the New Zealand study can start to address. Which birds are most vulnerable generally and which are most vulnerable with Birdsbesafe collar covers on cats? Are certain species of birds not protected well? Do some birds have behaviors (like searching for berries) that make them attracted to bright colored garb? Are there birds that might not identify a cat as a threat at all? (There are no native wild cat species in New Zealand, such as we have here in New England with bobcats.) Do some Birdsbesafe® colors and patterns work best in New Zealand and Australia, and if so, which ones?

At Birdsbesafe® company, we receive first-hand reports that show a very strong protective effect for many of our customers (and their cats) in New Zealand and Australia. But sometimes, uncommonly, people write to us that their cat still seems to catch a lot of birds. (If this happens to you, please send us feedback, as we can pass the details along to the conservation community.)

Experience has shown us that small differences in fabric choice can make big differences to birds and cats. We're constantly advancing our understanding of these subtleties. In the U.S. and for Europe, our "color formula" is quite effective and established now. In New Zealand and Australia, it is evolving. We take the matter very seriously as our company's mission is not to "make a dollar" but to save birds, and while the wondrous lands down under are far from home, they are not far from our thoughts.

We're glad that science studies will continue to advance further understanding of how well Birdsbesafe® products work far away from our backyard birds in North America. By the way, we've seen our company described recently in New Zealand press as a U.S.-based company. Yes, we are that.

We are also a very small company, launched by one problem-solving woman who felt a moral obligation to share her invention with the world's cat owners to save as many birds as possible. Birdsbesafe® LLC has its product sewn in the U.S. at a worker's co-op -- and we're very proud of their team and their values. To find out more about Birdsbesafe® LLC, poke around the blog and get to know me and my company. I'm the owner and founder. We're succeeding because our products work, and because our passion for bird-protecting guides us. With our customers' help, we're saving tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of birds. Join us.

And--if you're in the Wellington area, we hope you will participate with Dr. Kikillus' study. Thanks so much for caring about cats and birds.