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29 November 2017


UTC 0800 – 1345
Moderator: Robyn Womack @RobynJWomack


UTC 0800 | Arjun Amar @arjundevamar
UTC 1200 | FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology
UTC 1200 | South Africa

Understanding the maintenance of colour polymorphism in raptors – insights from a long term study of a polymorphic African raptor

Although generally rare in birds, colour polymorphism is more common for raptors species, and is particular prevalent amongst Accipiter’s where around a quarter of species are polymorphic. Although colour polymorphism has fascinated evolutionary ecologists for decades the mechanisms maintaining different colour morphs within a population has remained elusive. The black sparrowhawk is the largest Accipiter in Africa and is colour polymorphic. The species colonised Cape Town in the mid-1990s and the population has been the focus of a long-term study since 2000. The species shows discrete colour polymorphism occurring as ether dark and white morphs. Within South Africa the species exhibits clinal variation, with the proportion of dark morphs increasing as you move into the south-west of the country, so that in Cape Town around about 80% of the population are of the dark morph. In this presentation, I will describe the research we have conducted to test different hypotheses proposed to explain the predominance of the dark morphs within this region, and how colour polymorphism within raptors might be maintained

Arjun Amar is an Associate Professor at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology @Fitztitute at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. His research focuses on understanding the drivers of population declines, human-wildlife conflicts involving raptors and game birds, and more recently on understanding the evolutionary ecology of colour polymorphism in raptors.


UTC 0830 | Elham Nourani @ elham_nourani
UTC 1200 | Nagasaki University, Japan

Migratory route selection of the Grey-faced buzzard in the world’s only oceanic flyway for raptors

The East Asian oceanic flyway for raptors is the only global raptor flyway that is largely over land. We used satellite telemetry data for Grey-faced Buzzards Butastur indicus, a species that dominates the southern part of this flyway, to investigate the geographic and atmospheric factors responsible for the suitability of this flyway for raptor migration. Using a combination of least-cost path analysis and a step selection function, we found that the occurrence of numerous islands, as well as suitable wind support along the oceanic flyway are responsible for route selection in Grey-faced Buzzards.

UTC 0845 | Petra Sumasgutner @PeSumas
UTC 1200 | University of Cape Town, South Africa

Senescence in the city: Do urban Black Sparrowhawks age faster?

Productivity and survival usually decline above a certain age; a process known as senescence. Senescence is widely believed to be driven by the accumulation of somatic damage and/or mutations. Within urban environments animals are exposed to a wide range of environmental stressors that pose a major challenge to their physiological systems and might accelerate the aging process. The Black Sparrowhawk is an urban adapter species in Cape Town, South Africa, with a relative long life-span. We used 16 years of breeding records from individually colour ringed birds to explore reproductive senescence and actuary senescence (survival) across a gradient of urbanisation.

UTC 0900 | Airam Rodriguez @ Airam_Rguez
UTC 1200 | Estacion Biologica de Doñana CSIC, Spain

The Canary Islands cliff-nesting raptor community

The specific spatial distribution is a major issue in ecology and conservation. We describe nesting sites of five cliff-nesting raptors (Egyptian Vulture [a locally extinct species], Buzzard, Osprey, kestrel, Barbary Falcon), and Raven on one of the most biodiverse hotspot within the Canary Islands (Teno, Tenerife). Raptor abundance increased with slope, shrub-covered area, and habitat diversity, and decreased with altitude, and forested and grassed areas. Threatened species occupied cliffs farther away from houses and roads, and more rugged areas than the non-threatened species. Preservation of rugged terrains and areas of low human pressure are key factors for insular raptor conservation.

UTC 0915 | Agnes Olin @agnesbirgitta
UTC 1200 | University of Strathclyde,UK &
UTC 1200 | University of Glasgow, UK

Examining the link between Black-legged Kittiwakes and Lesser Sandeels across the British Isles

Black-legged Kittiwakes have declined throughout the British Isles. This is thought to have been caused by a decline in Lesser Sandeels, an important prey for Kittiwakes. I evaluated the evidence for this hypothesis by reviewing studies investigating the link between Sandeel availability and Kittiwake breeding success and by examining whether Kittiwake populations mirror spatiotemporal patterns in Sandeel populations. The results suggest that the strength of the link between Kittiwakes and Sandeels varies spatially, indicating that while Kittiwake declines may have been caused by reduced Sandeel availability in some areas, other factors may be responsible in other locations and require investigation.

UTC 0930 | Ruedi Nager @RuediNager
UTC 1200 | University of Glasgow, UK

Population variance in diets of British seabirds

Ecologists have long used niche theory to describe the ecology of a species as a whole, for instance with respect to diet. We know that in some species individuals can specialise on very specific diets even if the population as a whole is a generalist. Here I want to explore the spatial and temporal differentiation in seabird diets across the British Isles. We expect populations to be more specialised than the species as a whole and between-population differences to vary across species and to be driven by local circumstances.

UTC 0945 | Darren P. O’Connell @oconned5
UTC 1200 | Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Competitively mediated selection in ‘great speciators’

Feeding niches are defined by resources, but resource availability may depend on competition. In competing species, traits which minimise resource competition are expected to experience positive selection. This process is known as ecological character displacement (ECD). ECD typically results in a greater difference in resource-exploiting traits. Conversely, if a competitor disappears from an ecosystem, the remaining species may experience character release. Here we demonstrate competitively mediated selection in two ‘great speciator’ lineages of South-east Sulawesi, the Zosterops White-eyes and Todiramphus Kingfishers. ‘Great speciators’ evolve rapidly, making excellent study subjects. We provide empirical support for the theoretical framework of competitively-mediated selection.

UTC 1000 | BREAK

UTC 1015 | Emmanuel Lourie @emmanuellourie
UTC 1200 | University of East Anglia, UK &
UTC 1200 | Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Incorporating behaviours into GPS tracking data – a deeper understanding of habitat selection

GPS tracking provides information on the locations of individual animals, and by inference, the habitats they rely on. Yet, the presence vs. absence representation fails to capture the behavioural mechanisms that drive habitat choice. Here, we develop a novel method for the analysis of behaviour-specific habitat selection using data from 12 Little Bustards Tetrax tetrax fitted with GPS tags and accelerometer sensors. We found that taking account of behaviour revealed habitat preferences that went undetected by the conventional location-based model. Such deeper understanding of habitat choice can help guide management interventions aiming to support key functions for the species’ survival.

UTC 1030 | Chris B. Thaxter @thaxalot
UTC 1200 | BTO, UK

Bird and bat species’ vulnerability to collision mortality at wind farms: a global trait-based assessment

Mitigation of anthropogenic climate change involves deployments of wind farms, posing a collision risk to birds and bats. Potential effects for many species and locations, however, remain unclear. We related collision rates/turbine to species traits and turbine characteristics to predict potential vulnerability of species globally. Avian collision rate was affected by migration, dispersal and habitat, and bats by dispersal. Larger turbines (megawatts) increased collision rates, but fewer larger turbines reduced total wind farm collisions per unit energy output. Areas containing vulnerable species concentrations included migration corridors. These results can help guide wind farm design and location to minimise animal mortality.

UTC 1045 | Robyn Womack @RobynJWomack
UTC 1200 | University of Glasgow, UK

Genes around the clock: Circadian rhythms of clock and immune gene expression in Great Tits

The circadian clock is a core feature of avian physiology, vital for the normal function of many biological processes. Central avian clock mechanisms are synchronised with daily fluctuations in the external environment, such as the light-dark cycle, and in turn influence timing of behavioural activity and physiological changes that occur across a 24 hour day. We use gene expression as a tool for investigating circadian mechanisms in free-living Great Tits, with the overall aim of creating time profiles of gene expression of core clock and immune genes to untangle the complex interactions of avian circadian physiology with the environment.

UTC 1100 | Suvi Ruuskanen @RuuskanenSuvi
UTC 1200 | University of Turku, Finland

Maternal egg hormones in the mating context: effect of pair personality

Personality traits emerge developmentally from the interaction between genetics and early environment. Maternally-derived hormones organize multiple behavioural and physiological traits. We studied whether mother’s and father’s personality traits, and their match, is associated with egg hormone allocation in Great Tits Parus major. We used multiple approaches: 1) a wild population, 2) a randomly-mated captive population, and 3) (dis)assortatively mated pairs from personality (bold/shy) selection lines. Egg androgen concentrations were associated with variation in female personality traits, and the experimental data suggested that this is independent of male personality. However, in the correlative data pairs mated assortatively for personality had lower egg androgen concentrations than disassortatively-mated pairs. Our results suggest that maternal hormones might contribute to heritability of personality, and may be sensitive to the social context of mating.

UTC 1115 | Hazel A. Jackson @WildParakeetsUK
UTC 1200 | University of Kent, UK

Conservation of an endangered island parrot; evolutionary and morphological distinctiveness of the Seychelles Black Parrot

With 56% in decline, parrots are the most threatened of all bird groups. The Western Indian Ocean was once a rich source of parrot diversity, now just two species remain; the Mauritius parakeet, and the Seychelles Black Parrot. Despite being the Seychelles national bird, the Black Parrot Coracopsis nigra barklyi is one of the rarest. Restricted to the small 38km2 island of Praslin, the current population is just 520-900 individuals. To provide important guidance for ongoing conservation management, this study explores the evolutionary and morphological distinctiveness of the Seychelles black parrot whilst quantifying levels of genetic diversity over time.

UTC 1130 | Edgar Bernat Ponce @edberpon
UTC 1200 | University of Valencia, Spain

What is happening to the urban House Sparrows of the Valencian Community (Eastern Spain)?

The House Sparrow is immersed in a sharp decline in Europe. In the Valencian Community these declines are of 90 % in urban areas and of 70 % in rural ones. The aims of this project were: to discover the factors that determine its abundance, to find clues about its decline and to propose measures for its conservation. The abundance of House Sparrows was analysed, in relation to landscape variables, in 181 point counts distributed in 5 Valencian localities during 5 seasons. Urban parks were selected every season by the species, meanwhile areas with trash containers were selected in winter.

UTC 1145 | Gabriel Foley @birdnirdfoley
UTC 1200 | University of Pretoria, South Africa

Variation in White-browed Sparrow-weaver nest insulation over a climatic gradient

Arid regions experience hot days and cool nights, and organisms living there must cope with both extremes. Birds are typically exposed to hot daytime temperatures, but may use a nest to reduce nocturnal thermoregulatory expenses. White-browed Sparrow-weavers are a colonial southern African bird inhabiting arid and semi-arid regions, but rather than take advantage of the thermoregulatory benefits of communal roosting they roost individually in a domed nest at night. We are looking at the insulative values of their nests across a climatic gradient and predict that nest insulation values will be higher in drier areas with cooler nights.

UTC 1200 | BREAK

UTC 1215 | Steve Dudley @stevedudley_
UTC 1200 | BOU, UK

#TheTweetingBird: its rise, relevance and impact in ornithology

Is online attention associated with citations in the scholarly literature? The Altmetric Attention Score (AAS) quantifies the attention received by a scientific publication on various online platforms including social media. It has been advanced as a rapid way of gauging the impact of a piece of research, both in terms of potential future scholarly citations and wider online engagement. Here, we explore variation in the AAS of 2,677 research articles published in 10 ornithological journals between 2012 and 2016, analyse the contribution of the main scoring sources and track the rise of the average AAS score. For a subset of articles published in 2014 we also investigated whether the AAS influenced the citation rate of these articles.

UTC 1230 | Alex Evans @alexevans91
UTC 1200 | University of Leeds, UK

Perceptions and impacts of ornithology games on social media

Identification-style games are an increasingly prevalent activity within the science and nature communities on social media, with ornithology-themed games proving to be especially popular. Social media provides a platform for the creation and sharing of enjoyable and educational content that attracts both researchers and the interested public. Understanding who develops and plays these games, and how they are perceived, is important in assessing their role as tools for effective science engagement. Using a mixed qualitative-quantitative survey, this project assesses the potential impact of social media identification-style games for the improvement of ornithological identification skills, social networking and scientific outreach.

UTC 1245 | Yvan G. Satgé @project_pelican
UTC 1200 | Clemson University, US

Using a novel way to communicate seabird research: Physiology and geography predict individual migratory strategies in the Brown Pelican

While Brown Pelicans are resident throughout their range, some individuals undertake migrations of up to 3,000 km. Variations in migratory strategies could lead to differing risk factors and drive population dynamics. We modelled migratory strategy as a function of physiology and geography. Females and smaller males were more likely to migrate long distances; we also found a significant influence of colony size. We are examining genetic variation to help explain patterns of partial migration. In collaboration with illustrators, we will present our research as a Twitter ‘graphic novel’.


UTC 1300 | GrrlScientist @GrrlScientist
UTC 1200 | Freelance science writer

Tweeting birdie comms in the age of social media

If you’ve followed the BOU Twitter Conference over these past 24+ hours, you’ve caught a glimpse of the power and the global reach of one particular digital platform for communicating about birds and science directly with the public. Perhaps you’re inspired to join the fun, or maybe you’ve been using just one platform and wish to expand your reach by learning how to use other platforms to diversify your audience. In this series of tweet-slides, I will share the basics for how to use social media, including Twitter and YouTube, to communicate your science to the public, and to help establish connections with the public, your fellow scientists and with the media.

GrrlScientist is an evolutionary ecologist and ornithologist who writes long-form journalism about science for @Forbes and @EvoInstitute , and also writes 2-minute podcasts about birds for @BirdNoteRadio . Science blog writer, social media lurker, Twitter fiend. Keeps songbirds. Kept by parrots.

UTC 1330 | CONFERENCE CLOSE | Closing remarks and thanks

All times are given as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and you will have to check what this corresponds to your local time to follow presentations live. See here for UTC clock and local time converter.

#BOU17TC conference links

Tweeting guidelines
Session 1 (commences UTC 1200, 28 November)
Session 2 (commences UTC 1600, 28 November)
Session 3 (commences UTC 2115, 28 November)
Session 4 (commences UTC 0130, 29 November)
Session 5 (commences UTC 0500, 29 November)
Session 6 (commences UTC 0800, 29 November)
Abstracts (PDF)
Frequently asked questions

BOU17TC contacts

Get in touch with #BOU17TC organisers via Twitter or email:
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Nina O’Hanlon @Nina_OHanlon or email Nina

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