Birds and humans affect each other in both positive and negative ways.

Habitat disturbance, climate change and other stressors impose challenges to bird reproduction and migration and birds’ high mobility makes them important vectors for disease and parasites.

Studies of birds have led to fundamental discoveries with long-term benefits in biomedicine and agriculture.  Birds are among the best model systems to study the neurobiology of vocal learning and adult neurogenesis.  Conservation and population biology depend critically on birds as biomarkers and birds' global movements have important implications for human and ecosystem health.

Our Research

AFAR supports integrative research on all aspects of birds’ annual cycles including reproduction, migration and wintering.  Research also examines communication and social behaviour.  Work is conducted both at AFAR and at various field sites.


  • Seasonal plasticity of brain and reproductive physiology.
  • Use of environmental cues to time reproduction.
  • Physiological costs of reproduction.
  • Effects of stress, parasites and disease on reproduction.
  • Genetic diversity and reproductive success.


  • Effects of altitude, temperature and humidity on flight energetics
  • Effects of diet, body composition, and environmental contaminants on migration performance
  • Effects of flight and refueling on tissue stable isotopes
  • How does immune function affect migration?

Aerodynamics of bird flight:

  • Aerodynamics of flapping flight
  • Aerodynamic forces on soaring osprey
  • Unsteady aerodynamics of bird flight
  • How do owls fly silently?


  • Food-storing and spatial abilities
  • Hippocampal neurogenesis


  • How do songbirds learn their songs?
  • How does geographic variation in song relate to population structure?

This research helps us understand how birds meet the demands of long distance migration, how birds respond to environmental stressors such as habitat change, disease and climate change, and how avian reproduction is affected by changing environmental conditions.