The Birds

Brood-parasitic study systems

In Zambia we study four different groups of brood parasitic birds and their hosts, as well as some interesting non-parasitic birds, too.

Cuckoo Finch egg circle

Cuckoo Finches

Cuckoo Finches Anomalospiza imberbis are brood parasitic finches that exploit various species of warblers as their hosts. They have evolved beautiful mimicry not only of their different host species, but also of different host colour and patterns, or ‘forgeries’ to their hosts’ egg ‘signatures’.
Read more here…

Honeyguide

Greater and Lesser Honeyguides

Honeyguides are intriguingly bizarre birds with respect to most aspects of their lives. They guide humans to bees’ nests, are unusually brutal brood parasites of other birds and, it turns out, have a remarkably ancient history of specialisation on their particular host species.
Read more here…

African Cuckoo

African and Diederik Cuckoos

African Cuckoo eggs are probably the very best forgeries of any brood parasitic egg in the world. They can so closely resemble those of their hosts that neither we nor the hosts can tell them apart.
Read more here…

Indigobird

Vidua Finches: Whydahs and Indigobirds

Vidua finches, the indigobirds and whydahs, belong to the same family as Cuckoo Finches but have a fascinatingly different brood parasitic system involving beautiful mimicry of their host chicks’ bizarrely pattern mouthparts.
Read more here…

Other interesting things we study in Choma

Great Reed Warbler

Migratory Birds

Marjorie Sorensen carried out her PhD research on the intriguing and little-known winter ecology of Palearctic-breeding migratory birds (Willow Warblers and Great Reed Warblers) that spend the non-breeding season in Zambia.
Read more here…

FN Nightjar

Nest Camouflage

We study camouflage and thermal ecology of eggs, chicks and incubating adults of ground-nesting birds in Choma: nightjars, coursers and plovers.
Read more here…

News

Dr Gabriel Jamie gives a talk on mimicry in parasitic finches at the African BirdFair

Dr Gabriel Jamie gave a talk on mimicry in the parasitic finches of Africa at Birdlife South Africa’s Virtual African Birdfair. Please also see Dr Jessica van der Wal’s talk on our sister research project on honeyguide-human mutualism (more information at www.AfricanHoneyguides.com) and many other great research talks by our colleagues at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. Also visit the amazing line-up of other talks at the Virtual African BirdFair, including a talk on bird art by the brilliant Faansie Peacock who has generously allowed us to use his illustrations in several of our scientific publications. Thank you BirdLife South Africa!

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Mairenn Attwood submits her MPhil thesis

Congratulations to Mairenn Attwood for successfully submitting her MPhil thesis at the University of Cambridge, entitled ‘Angry birds: does it pay a cuckoo to parasitise a highly aggressive host?’. In it, Mairenn asks whether high levels of aggression by fork-tailed drongos affect hawk mimicry by the African cuckoo, and whether it pays cuckoos to specialise on such aggressive hosts. An amazing feat of field experimental work in Zambia (in collaboration with Jess Lund), analysis and writing in just one year of research – well done Mairenn!

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Front cover of Trends in Ecology and Evolution

Dr Gabriel Jamie and Dr Joana Meier’s paper on the persistence of polymorphisms across species radiations is on the front cover of the September issue of Trends in Ecology and Evolution. The cover image provides a specific example of the trans-species polymorphisms that the paper explores. Here, a polymorphism in shell chirality that recurs across multiple species of Amphidromus snails . Photos by Menno & Jan Schilthuizen. You can read the full article here: https://tinyurl.com/ycgdw4lu

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