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

February 23, 2015

» Non-native lizards adapt rapidly to new climate

Lizard.Uller (1024x683)A recent study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B by Geoff While and colleagues shows that lizards introduced into England from Southern Europe only a few decades ago already have adapted to the cooler climate. Non-native females hold on to their eggs for longer before laying, capitalizing on the fact that a basking lizard can maintain a much higher body temperature than the surrounding soil. In addition, once the eggs are laid, embryos in non-native populations also develop faster than their native counterparts at cool temperatures. These responses may have been crucial for the persistence of wall lizard populations in England. Read the paper here and media links to BBC here.

February 17, 2015

» Experimental manipulation of avian social structure reveals segregation is carried over across contexts

great tit thumbnail (3)A new paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B by Josh Firth and Ben Sheldon reports the results of a study that experimentally manipulated the social networks of wild great tits in Wytham woods. This research showed that experimentally-imposed social segregation was carried over into associations at free-access food patches, as well as at nesting sites when prospecting for breeding territories. This demonstrates external factors can create segregation that extends into multiple aspects of sociality. However, this separation disappeared once the experiment was over, indicating that social networks can also recover from segregation. Link to the paper here. Media links to Daily Mail here; Discover Magazine; here.

February 12, 2015

» Interspecific social networks promote information transmission in wild songbirds

bluetit1A paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B by Damien Farine and colleagues develops a new analytical approach for quantifying rates of information transfer in multiple networks. They apply their method to experimental data showing that information about new food patches spreads through mixed-species social networks, but that it is transferred between species at approximately half the rate as between conspecifics.This research also reveals striking heterogeneity between species in the discovery and initial transmission of information, suggesting that species differ in their relative roles as information brokers in multispecies communities. You can read the paper here:


February 3, 2015

» Matching times of leading and following suggest cooperation through direct reciprocity during V-formation flight in ibis

Paraplane PNV-Schirm mit Vögeln_8086A new paper in PNAS by Bernhard Voelkl and colleagues reports a study on the social dynamics during bird migration flight. The authors tracked a flock of 14 critically endangered juvenile Northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita) on their first, southbound migration. GPS loggers were attached to each bird to record each individual’s position within the flock. Results reveal that individuals cooperate by taking turns in the energetically costly lead position of a V-shaped formation. This study shows that direct reciprocation can enable cooperation between animals in a natural context and how birds can reduce their energy requirements during their seasonal long-distance migrations. Link to the paper here.  Media links to BBC here; Science here; New Scientist here.

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