An American professor is studying the positive effects of feeding birds on humans after observing a family member's strong attachment to the hobby.

Ashley Dayer is an associate professor in the Fish and Wildlife Conservation department at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Dayer, who said her mother is very committed to feeding birds, is the lead author of a paper recently published in People and Nature. Her goal: to find the positive human effects of feeding birds.

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Researchers believe they will find that feeding birds benefits humans and should play a role in public guidance and policy, according to Virginia Tech News.

Dayer told the university publication that many wildlife agencies don't consider the science behind “what's happening to birds” or “the science behind what's happening to people.”

Researchers are looking at the positive impacts humans can have when they take the time and care to feed wild birds. (iStock)

The associate professor said her interest in investigating the benefits of feeding birds began in 2021 when she saw that state agencies were advising people to stop feeding birds due to disease outbreaks.

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But after doing her own research, Dayer said she and other researchers found that 23 states had made these recommendations without evidence that it would actually stop the spread of the diseases.

Along with Dayer, Dana Hawley, a professor of biological sciences at Virginia Tech, told Virginia Tech News that studying the effects of bird feeding on humans wasn't something she had really thought about before this revelation.

Bird feeding

One researcher said she knows the commitment people can have to feeding birds, as she saw her own mother's love for the hobby. (iStock)

“In all my years of studying how bird feeding affects wild birds, I haven't given much thought to how it can also impact the people who spend their time and money feeding and watching birds,” she said.

The new project is an extension of the work Dayer and Hawley have been doing over the past six years.

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The group of researchers is now using FeederWatch, a network of bird enthusiasts – which, for the past 37 years, has asked participants to observe and report what they see at their feeders from November to April.

For this new study, researchers began by asking participants to observe their own well-being using FeederWatch. They received about 8,000 applications in the first week of this season, according to Virginia Tech News.

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The passionate response from the bird feeding community, however, is something Dayer is no stranger to, as she noted that her mother would go so far as to cut her vacation short to be home to feed the birds.

Bird feed available

The researchers said about 8,000 bird feeders participated in the first week of their new study. (iStock)

“I lived with someone who really liked feeding birds and I saw how important it could be,” she told Virginia Tech News.

Dayer told Fox News Digital that study participants are now sharing their emotional responses to the birds.

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“They are also sharing information about their emotional responses to birds they see, mammals they see, observations of disease or observations of dead birds,” she said.

Bird at the feeder

Researchers are already seeing the emotional impacts that birds have on people. (iStock)

Dayer said researchers are already noticing that emotional sadness prevails when participants come into contact with dead birds — whether the deaths are caused by predators, weather or disease.

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Hawley told the university publication that he hopes his research “will help us develop bird feeding guidelines that minimize risk to wild birds and maximize benefits for the people who feed them.”

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Fox News Digital has reached out to Dayer for further comment.

For more lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

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