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Current Projects
Are sleepy birds sloppy singers? Using songbirds to examine the relationships between sleep and
vocal learning.
 | 2024 - present

From jellyfish to humans, all animals sleep. Sleep is especially important for behaviours that require cognitive function, such as problem-solving or learned vocalisations. However, with an increase in urbanization, anthropogenic disturbances can fragment sleep patterns of wild animals, which may negatively impact behaviour and populations.
During this project, we aim to investigate the effects that sleep disruption has on vocal learning and its fitness consequences.

P.I: Kristal Cain

Past Projects
The importance of sleep for vocal performance of common mynas (Acridotheres tristis) | 2019 - 2023

During this project, we investigated the effects that sleep disruption has on vocal performance in common mynas (Acridotheres tristis).

Supervision: Kristal Cain, Margaret Stanley

Thesis Link

Effects of sleep on neurobehavioural performance of Australian magpies (Cracticus tibicen) | 2019

Sleep has been shown to be crucial for vocalization and cognitive development. However, little is know how sleep, or the lack of, affects the behaviour of adult birds. In this project, we showed that sleep loss impairs motivation and cognitive performance, and alters song output, in Australian magpies.

Supervision: Kristal Cain, John Lesku

Other Researchers: Robin Johnsson, Farley Connelly

Vocal communication in New Zealand Fantails (Rhipidura fuliginosa) | 2019 - 2020

New Zealand fantails - pīwakawaka - are known for being curious and for their distinctive song and display. The aim of this project was to investigate whether males and females have distinct song complexities.

Supervision: Kristal Cain

Co-supervision: Margaret Stanley

Detection of moving targets in budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) | 2018
In this project, we wanted to determine the spatial acuity of birds. To do so, I trained and tested budgerigars in a two-choice experiment which consisted of achromatic moving targets of different sizes that were presented on an LCD screen.

Supervision: Almut Kelber

Main investigator: Sandra Chaib


Mirror-mediated spatial location in great tits (Parus major| 2017 - 2018

In a previous study, great tits were tested for self-recognition in the mark-mirror test and failed, behaving as if the reflection in the mirror was a conspecific and not themselves. In this study I tested whether great tits were able to understand mirrors in a mirror-mediated location task. I also analysed sex, environment and age of each bird.

Supervision: Anders Brodin

Problem solving in forest and urban great tits (Parus major) | 2016 - 2017

It is often assumed that urban birds are better than birds living in rural environments in problem solving tests, the reason being that they are more adapted to novel food sources and human made conditions. Therefore, in this project, we tested if there were differences in the problem solving abilities of urban and forest birds in two tests: the plug-opening and string-pulling tasks.

Supervision: Anders Brodin

Other researchers: Ineta Kačergytė and Utku Urhan


Behavioural analysis of Southern Lapwing (Vanellus chilensis) with human presence. | 2013

Southern lapwing's habitat is constituted of open grasslands near water bodies. In urbanized areas, they use soccer fields, airports, and agricultural fields to feed, breed and nest. However, they are a very territorial species, known to mob other animals, including humans. In this study, I observed a group of lapwings and analyzed if human presence had any influence on their behaviour.


Supervision: Renata De Boni Dal Corno

Associations of parental care and offspring quality in mountain bluebirds (Sialia currucoides). | 2013

In this project I helped a Master student catch and band mountain bluebirds. Then, we conducted nest monitoring through PIT-tags, field cameras and focal observations to measure parental care.  We also collected blood and feather samples, measure feather brightness through a field spectrophotometer and gathered information on their life history traits to test whether there were associations between parental care and the quality of the offspring's feathers.


Supervision: Matthew Reudink

Main investigator: Sarah McArthur

Master Thesis link

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