Birdwatchers viewed as 'creepy'

Here's what most American birdwatchers are, according to a 2013 government study: white, over 45, fairly well-off and pretty highly educated.

Here's what many people think birdwatchers are: creepy.

That's according to a recent study of "creepiness." Led by psychology professor Frank McAndrew at Illinois' Knox College, the study set out to figure out what makes us think other people are creepy.

The conclusion — based on a survey of 1,341 people, most of whom were female and American — is that feeling creeped out is an evolved response to the ambiguity of a possible threat, which helps us remain vigilant.

In one section, survey respondents were asked to list two hobbies that are creepy. "Collecting things" took top honors, with special mentions for collecting insects and reptiles. Birdwatchers were considered creepy by many, as well.

The study offers no details about why. But it turns out that this reaction is probably not news to birdwatchers, and it seems to be rooted in a key birding tool: binoculars.

David. J. Ringer, the National Audubon Society's chief network officer, took the study's conclusions in stride.

"If you're already a birder, maybe don't point your binoculars at other people's houses, stop your car in the middle of the road, or yell "Bushtit!" during an otherwise civil dinner conversation," Ringer told the Post in an e-mail. "And if you're not a birder yet, take a good long look at a cardinal, a hummingbird, or an eagle cam and see what happens. You might get hooked. … "

Washington Post