Welcome to the EGI

Oxford University LogoThe Edward Grey Institute is part of the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford. Founded in 1937, it conducts research into the behaviour, ecology, evolution and conservation of birds, with a strong emphasis on understanding organisms in their natural environments. Read more on the history of the EGI.

The EGI is particularly well known for its long-term population studies of birds, and as one of the birthplaces of behavioural ecology. These research themes are as strong as ever, and have recently been supplemented by vigorous programmes studying reproductive strategies in birds, speciation in Neotropical passerines, and the evolutionary ecology of avian malaria. For a quick overview of what we do, see this poster.

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Research Highlights

December 4, 2014

» Experimental evolution of culture in wild birds

A new paper in Nature by Lucy Aplin and colleagues reports an experimental study in Wytham Woods, in which arbitrary behaviours were introduced and tracked as they spread through social networks of wild great tits. The work shows that social learning can lead to the rapid establishment of stable differences within populations, a form of avian ‘culture’, and implicates conformist learning – where individuals preferentially copy the majority, as they key to this.  Link to paper here.  Link to view video of Dr Lucy Aplin and Professor Ben Sheldon discussing the work here.

November 6, 2014

» The impact of divorce on birds

A new study in Biological Reviews uses meta-analysis to quantify the fitness causes and consequences of divorce in birds. Analysing data from 64 species reveals clear evidence that divorce is a response to lower success and that, at least for females, divorce leads to an increase in success. More details here


November 3, 2014

» Stress makes zebra finches more independent and sociable

A study published in Biology Letters shows that zebra finches that are exposed to stress during development become independent from their parents sooner and associate more widely with members of their flock. Young birds experimentally fed a stress hormone were more central in their social networks but less connected to their family members than those that were not exposed to stress. This study identifies a potential mechanism underlying individual differences in birds being more or less social. Click here for details.

 

 

July 3, 2014

» Individual personality and emergent collective behaviour in great tits

A study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows that foraging in groups consisting of mixed personality types can have emergent properties not found in uniform groups. In flocks of wild great tits, bold birds initiated movements towards unexploited areas in food patches, whereas shy birds maintained cohesion of the flock, resulting in better use of resources and suggesting a role for personality in leader-follower polymorphisms.

Link to paper: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/281/1789/20141016.full

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