Conference – Behaviour 2017

David oozing coolness at Behaviour 2017

The Healy lab descended in full force on the Behaviour 2017 conference (perhaps partially because it was held in sunny Portugal, see image at end).

Sue certainly had a full programme. Not only was there a book launch for Avian Cognition, edited by Sue and Carel ten Cate (available here), but Sue also participated in the ‘meet the editors’ session (as chief-editor of Animal Behaviour), chaired one of the Animal Cognition talks sessions, and then delivered a talk on variation in hummingbird cognitive abilities, as well as a plenary on “Bringing Tinbergen to a neglected behaviour: nest building by birds”. Between all of this I am told that she did have an afternoon free to lay by the pool.

David gave a talk on visual navigation in hummingbirds, and Nora presented her work on recognition of novel predators in tits. Finally, Lauren also gave a talk on immediate early gene expression and social learning in zebra finches.

Sue delivering her plenary talk on “Bringing Tinbergen to a neglected behaviour: nest building by birds”

Sue giving her talk on variation in hummingbird cognitive abilities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lauren making friends

 

 

 

David gave a talk on visual navigation in hummingbirds

Nora presented her work on British tits

 

Not a bad location for a conference

Big Garden Birdwatch

On the last weekend of January Alexis, David, Eira, Lauren and Shoko from the Rutz Lab donned their citizen science caps and joined the hundreds of thousands of people up and down the country who took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. Saturday in St Andrews was very dreich indeed and most birds on Hallow Hill and St Mary’s Quadrangle on the campus stayed hidden, perhaps passing the time in their jammies with a nice cup of piping hot tea. When the sun came out on Sunday Lauren’s garden, where birds are well catered for with a number of feeders, soared to the top of the chart with 17 species observed in one hour.

Alexis and Eira enjoying the weather

Fieldwork in the Canadian rockies

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A shot of David, Vicki, Maria, Mabel, and Freya during a hike in the rockies (photo credit to Freya Coursey)

Another successful fieldwork season in the Canadian rockies! David and Georgina were joined by former Healy lab member Dr Maria Tello-Ramos, as well as three undergraduates from the University of St Andrews (Vicki, Mabel, and Freya) to work on wild rufous hummingbirds for 7 weeks. David and Vicki paired up to find out how the hummingbirds use landmarks, Maria and Mabel looked at whether the hummingbirds change their foraging sequences, and Georgina and Freya focused on how the hummingbirds make foraging decisions. Everyone worked fantastically hard, and got lots of data as a payoff. Well done everyone!

 

Conducting research in the Rocky mountains was an experience I will never forget. Alberta is a beautiful place to work and hummingbirds are the most fascinating species to study. I’m really excited to spend the next year reminiscing about the experience while working with the data we collected. I’m so incredibly grateful to have had the chance to work with such esteemed scientists, who were not only inspiring and excellent teachers but good fun too. Thank you for all your continued guidance. To future adventurers I would recommend a good sunhat, plenty of bug spray and a better camera than I had!

– Mabel Barclay

 

I was completely amazed to be given this opportunity to carry out research for my dissertation in the beautiful setting of the Canadian Rockies. Being able to watch hummingbirds behaving in the wild was a real treat, and is an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I learnt a lot, not only about cognition in hummingbirds, but also the often tricky process of data collection and the general world of academia. My gratitude goes to Dr Sue Healy and Dr Andy Hurly for the fantastic opportunity, and also many thanks to Georgina, Maria and David for putting up with us undergraduates. Extra thanks go to Georgina for your mentoring and endless enthusiasm!

– Freya Coursey

 

I had such a fantastic experience in Canada. I saw far more wildlife than I could have imagined. The hummingbirds were amazing, and never mind the experiments – they would come feed from a feeder that I was holding a foot away from my face!! But of course, the best thing had to be seeing that wolf. MOST EXCITING MOMENT OF MY LIFE!!!!!

 – Vicki Balfour

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David, Maria, Mabel, Freya, and Georgina enjoying a day off before leaving Canada (photo credit to Mabel Barclay)

Outreach – Research Illustration

Illustration by Alina Loth

Illustration by Alina Loth

David‘s work on hummingbirds has been included in the Research Illustration project, which aims to communicate science through the use of art. After contacting David, the team of artists and researchers put together a piece on his paper ‘Wild rufous hummingbirds use local landmarks to return to rewarded locations‘, and the final product is available here.

Spatial navigation in hummingbirds

To test spatial memory, David Pritchard taught hummingbirds to feed from an artificial flower positioned between two landmarks. He then removed the flower and watched to see where each hummingbird searched for it, recording how close the bird stop to where the flower had been positioned using two video cameras 90 degrees apart so the flight path could be recreated and analysed using specialist software.

David3 copyThese experiments will provide some insight into how hummingbirds use landmarks to remember the locations of flowers they have visited.