D.Phil. student in Animal Behaviour
I am a Natural Motion funded DPhil student working with the Oxford Navigation Group under Professor Tim Guilford. My research aims to investigate mechanisms of vagrancy in migratory bird species, where individuals engage in long-distance movements outside of their known species’ ranges. This behaviour has historically been attributed to faulty internal navigation, or displacement by extrinsic factors such as wind and weather, however, proposed mechanisms remain largely untested. Through direct field experimentation, I test for orientation preference in migrant passerines during autumn migration, to determine whether vagrants are oriented on migratory flights. I also utilise citizen-science databases to determine whether breeding success is a contributing factor to the spread of migrants, as has been postulated in the past, but not quantified. This research will help ascertain drivers of vagrancy, plausible fitness benefits, and shed light on the complexities of bird migration. Understanding factors that drive vagrancy in bird populations is a novel and especially timely topic, given its importance in the expansion of geographic ranges as changes in climate continue to threaten species’ survival.