Fitz News

News from the FitzPatrick Institute

Current news | Fitz news archive

Special issue of Ostrich in memory of Phil Hockey


Following the sad and untimely passing of Phil Hockey in January 2013, BIrdLife South Africa suggested that a special issue of Ostrich be published in memory of Phil as a leading and influential African ornithologist. Rob Little was invited as Guest Editor for these special issues (Volume 86(1&2)) and he found it a pleasure and an honour to work with a variety of contributing authors, all of whom made a special effort to submit exemplary manuscripts either co-authored by Phil or within the focus areas of Phil’s research career.

The respect of Phil’s contributions to ornithology attracted 20 papers for these special issues, 17 with the Fitz’s address and 12 including Phil as a co-author. There are eight papers on coastal bird ecology, four on avian life history evolution and habitat dynamics, three investigating avian responses to climate change, three on waterbird movements, one on the population metrics of Fynbos birds and a final note on the discovery of a breeding population of Blue Petrels Halobaena caerulea on Gough Island. The first five shorebird papers focus on the African Black Oystercatcher Haematopus moquini, fittingly the cover image for 2015 taken by Jessie Walton, and the species on which Phil led a research programme for more than 25 years. These papers bring this chapter of a long-term single-species study to a close. It has seen the species down-listed from Near-Threatened in 1994 to being removed from the Red Data Book of birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland in 2015.

Three papers on avian responses to climate change deal with behavioural buffers, fine-scale patterns of habitat use, and the impacts on foraging behaviour and body condition. These papers emanate from the research programme which Phil developed with Andrew McKechnie during 2009 and which now has projects in the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa, the Sonoran Desert of North America, and deserts of Western and South Australia. Three papers on the temporal abundance and movements of waterbirds include an investigation into the fluctuation of bird numbers at sewage treatment ponds in an arid environment in South Africa, a review of the implications of waterfowl movement ecology for conservation and disease transmission, and insights into the challenges of monitoring mobile waterbird populations from studies in southern Africa. Hopefully these special issues will also help raise the profile of Ostrich, our ‘Journal of African Ornithology’, and encourage researchers to submit papers of broad ornithological interest to the journal. Abstracts of the papers in these issues can be viewed at www.tandfonline.com/toc/tost20/current

Please report any sightings of ringed Swift Terns


Swift Terns are one of the few locally-breeding seabirds whose numbers are increasing., To help understand the main factors driving the positive trend of this species, a team of researchers from the Percy FitzPatrick Institute and the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town marked 500 Swift Tern chicks from Robben Island in April 2013 and 2014 with metal and individually engraved colour rings. In 2013, members of the public reported how these birds dispersed, providing information on the fledging success, survival and dispersal of juvenile Swift Terns, which were re-sighted from Namibia to the Eastern Cape. Gathering dispersal records is a time consuming but important task that relies on assistance from volunteers across southern Africa.

Rings in 2014 are orange and yellow (with black text) and green and blue (with white text), and are engraved with an “A” followed by a letter and a number (e.g. AU2). Rings from 2013 are yellow and white (with black text) and green and blue (with white text), and bear a code of one letter and one number (e.g. U2).  The majority of the colour rings are top-down and all are on the right leg.

If you see any ringed birds please record their location as accurately as possible (ideally GPS), the date and time of sighting, ring colour, letters on the ring (if legible) and age class (juvenile or immature). If a bird is found dead, please also record the number of the metal ring. Send the information to Davide Gaglio at swift.terns@gmail.com

Thanks for your help!

Last modified: 2015/05/18
Copyright: Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology 2014
Please address any comments or enquiries about this website to the
page coordinator.