People in many parts of the world feed birds in their backyard, often because of a desire to help wildlife or to connect with nature. In the US alone, over 57 million backyard bird feeders feed more than $ 4 billion a year on bird food.
Although researchers know that feeding birds can influence nature, they do not know how we influence the people who are feeding those birds.
"As so many people are invested to attract birds to their backyard, we were interested in the natural changes they are watching in their feeders beyond just more birds," said Ashley Dayer. , assistant teacher in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech. "In particular, we wanted to know how they react to their observations. For example, how they feel if they see sick birds in their feeders, and what action they are ? n take them to get to grips with these observations? '
Researchers Ashley Dayer and Dana Hawley of Virginia Tech published their findings recently People and Nature, a new magazine published by the British Ecological Society.
The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Cornell Ornithology Laboratory and the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia.
The researchers analyzed how bird feeders notice and respond to natural events in their feeders by working with Project FeederWatch, a program managed by Cornell Ornithology Laboratory which engages over 25,000 people to observe and collect data on their backyard birds.
Using a survey of 1, 176 bird feeders and recording their bird observations in the Project FeederWatch database, the researchers found that most people noticed natural changes in their back yards. which may be due to feeding, including an increase in the number of birds in their feeders, cat or falcon near their feeders, or a sick bird in their feeders.
"More than that, we see that humans interact less with nature and that more wildlife is confined to areas where people are around. Looking at how humans respond to life t wild animals in their own backyard are very important for the future of wildlife conservation and to understand people's well-being as the opportunities for interaction with wildlife become more limited to backyard locations, "Hawley said, t associate professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at the College of Science. Hawley's research program in Virginia Tech focuses on the ecology and evolution of wildlife diseases.
"My 17 years worked with people feeding birds as part of citizen science projects, I have heard a lot about their impressive observations in their feeders," said co-author David Bonter, t Director of Citizen Science at Cornell Ornithology Laboratory. "This study provides important information about the breadth and pattern of these experiences through responses from over 1,000 participants. The findings will help us in the Feederwatch Project to improve how we work with bird watchers towards our common goal of bird conservation. "
The bird feeders also responded, especially to cats in their feeders, by sweeping the cats, moving feeders, or providing a shelter for birds. When observing sick birds, most people cleaned their feeders. When observing more birds, people often responded by providing more food. Fewer people act in response to see hawks; the most common response to this was to provide shelter for feeding birds. In some cases, these human responses were tied to people's emotions about their observations, particularly anger. Although cats close to the feeders shake anger, sick birds lead to sadness or anxiety. The emotions in response to bumblebees were more varied.
"Feeding wild birds is a fraudulent activity of common. Yet, one of the most intimate, private, potentially intense forms of interaction with nature. wide of additional natural phenomena, "said Darryl Jones, professor at Environmental Futures Research Institute and the School of Environment and Sciences Griffith University in Australia, who was not associated with the study.
One remarkable finding of the researchers in this study was that, in deciding how much to feed birds, people prioritized natural factors, such as cold weather, more than time and money. Most people believed that the effects of feeding them on wild birds were mainly good for birds, although many observed and acted in response to natural events in their backyard which could affect the health of the birds and could result from They fed them.
"Overall, our results suggest that people feeding birds observe aspects of nature and respond in ways that could affect feeding results on wild birds. full of positive and negative effects of feeding on wild birds and, therefore, the people who feed them, "Dayer said, whose research focuses on the human dimensions of wildlife conservation, applying the social science to understanding t human behavior associated with wildlife.
When managing bird feeders, think about the health and safety of birds
Ashley A. Dayer et al, Observations in bird feeders in the backyard influence the emotions and actions of people feeding birds, People and Nature (2019). DOI: 10.1002 / pan3.17