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MSc opportunity: Effect of sugar water feeders on natural sunbird and Erica populations (M.Sc. Conservation Biology or full thesis)
Deadline: August 31, 2018.  Only available to South African citizens

Sugar water feeders are used to attract and feed nectarivorous birds to people’s gardens, and are increasing in popularity. Birds are important pollinators to a large number of fynbos plant species and the effects of these feeders on birds’ behaviour and, consequently, the plants’ pollination rates are largely unknown. The ecological effects of sugar water feeders, specifically, have received very little attention, but with the expansion of urban areas and the habituation of birds to urban areas, this may become a pressing conservation issue. Currently, the costs and benefits of these feeders is still very controversial, and to date, this issue of how pollination in natural systems is affected by sugarwater feeders has not yet been addressed anywhere in the world. The feeders may attract nectarivorous birds away from natural plant populations which depend on the birds for pollination, alternatively, they may draw birds in to an area, increasing the rate of pollination. Bird-pollinated Erica species form a relatively specialised mutualism with the Orange-breasted Sunbird Anthobaphes violacea. Although this sunbird is uncommon in urban gardens, it makes considerable use of sugar water feeders in areas such as the Cape Peninsula, which could change pollination rates, affecting Erica populations in the Peninsula. This project would assess the effect of sugar water feeders at the urban edge on the abundance of sunbirds, their flower visitation behaviour and the resultant visitation rates to Erica pollination. The project would make use of field observations, flower assessment and camera traps to address this question.

Supervisors: Dr Anina Coetzee (SANBI/UCT), Prof Claire Spottiswoode (UCT), and Dr Colleen Seymour (SANBI)

Full details on the application procedure at


MSc/PhD opportunity:  The influence of ecosystem variability on demography and reproductive performance of two species of Eudyptes penguins at sub-Antarctic Marion Island.  For full details, download the advert here


Volunteers needed!

Looking for something to do this summer? Why not volunteer to help out with Hot Birds research! We are looking for research assistants for Nicholas Pattinson's PhD project in the Kalahari Desert. Nick is studying the reproductive ecology of Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills and will be based at Kuruman River Reserve near Van Zylsrus in the Northern Cape. Download full details here.