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Sonja Krüger's PhD thesis wins the Purcell award

Posted: 23 June 2015


Congratulations are due to Sonja Krüger who won the UCT Science Faculty's Purcell Award for her PhD thesis entitled “An investigation into the decline of the Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus in southern Africa.” The Purcell Award is awarded annually for the best MSc or PhD thesis on a zoological topic submitted at UCT.

Please report any sightings of ringed Swift Terns

Posted: 23 June 2015


For the third consecutive year, researchers from the Percy FitzPatrick Institute at the University of Cape Town marked 500 Swift Terns chicks with metal and individually engraved colour-rings in April 2015. Birders and members of the public are kindly asked to report ring colours to track the juvenile’s dispersal around the coast. Rings are orange and yellow (with black text) and green and blue (with white text), and are engraved with a letter and a number (e.g. Y7). 

Here is some info from PhD student Davide Gaglio's blog:

If you see any ringed birds, please record their location as accurately as possible (GPS ideally), 
date and time of sighting, ring colour, letters on the ring (if legible), which leg is the colour-ring and age class (juvenile or immature). If the bird is dead, please also record the number of the metal ring. Please send the information to Davide Gaglio at and SAFRING

SANAP/SA Agulhas Open Day 2015

Posted: 15 June 2015



Thanks to Ben Dilley, Delia Davies, Kim Stevens and Otto Whitehead for manning the Fitz stall at the SANAP/SA Agulhas Open Day - 12-13 June 2015.


In memoriam: Kirsten Louw (1979 - 2005)

Posted: 10 June 2015



Kirsten Louw, talented naturalist and esteemed colleague, died 10 years ago while studying towards his PhD at the Fitzpatrick Institute. His loss is still felt today.


Susan Mvungi appointed as Niven Librarian

Posted: 10 June 2015


We are pleased to announce that Susan Mvungi has been appointed to the Niven Librarian position with effect from July 3, 2015. Susan was born in Tanzania and spent time growing up Zimbabwe and Lesotho. She holds a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Systems and Networks from the National University of Lesotho, a post-grad Diploma in Library and Information Science from UCT, and a MSc in Library and Information Science from UCT (both awarded with distinction). After graduating, Susan worked briefly as a cataloguer for the National Library of South Africa before taking up a position as audio-visual archivist for eTV's eNews Channel. We look forward to welcoming her to the FitzPatrick Institute.

Post-Doctoral research opportunity: Analysis of raptor population dynamics

Posted: 5 June 2015



We invite applications for a one-year full-time post-doctoral research opportunity on Dr Arjun Amar's research team.  Full details available here.

New book available online: Marine Anthropogenic Litter

Posted: 5 June 2015



Marine Anthropogenic Litter, edited by Melanie Bergmann, Lars Gutow and Michael Klages, is now available online at The chapter 'A Brief History of Marine Litter Research' was written by Prof. Peter Ryan.

New contract lecturer at the Fitz: Dr Susan Cunningham

Posted: 2 June 2015



Dr Susie Cunningham has been appointed from 1 June 2015 to a contract lecturer post within the FitzPatrick Institute. This appointment is initially for three years, but with the intention to extend her position for the duration of the Centre of Excellence (CoE). Susie has worked closely with our CoE core team member at the University of Pretoria, Prof. Andrew McKechnie to keep the ‘Hot Birds’ programme going following Phil Hockey’s death.


Susie arrived at the Fitz as a post-doctoral fellow in 2010 fresh from a PhD on tactile and chemosensory perception in Kiwis, and was thrown into an entirely different arena, assessing the impacts of hot weather events on desert birds. She handled the transition with ease, and has gone on to impress everyone with her unassuming efficiency and professionalism.


In addition to running the UCT part of the 'Hot Birds" programme, Susie will also assist with running and teaching the MSc Conservation Biology course. We are very lucky to have her, and we’ll try our utmost to ensure that her tenure extends beyond that of the CoE.

Conservation posts - Gough Island 2015-2015

Posted: 2 June 2015



The RSPB are advertising for three conservation posts on Gough 61.  Deadline for applications is 17 June 2015.  See advert here.

Flock at sea - BirdLife SA AGM 2017

Posted: 2 June 2015



BirdLife SA is organising a unique 5 day cruise along the continental shelf from Cape Town and back for optimum seabird spotting. These waters have produced some of the rarest seabirds on the South Africa list. With top seabird guides on deck and a variety of on-board talks by leading seabird experts, this promises to be an unforgettable trip. For more information about prices, deck layout, programme of events etc, visit the BirdLife website here.

Special issue of Ostrich in memory of Phil Hockey

Posted: 28 May 2015



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.

Respect for 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 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

Last modified: 2015/06/24
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