Centre of Excellence

Dr Arjun Amar

   A/Prof. Arjun Amar
   BSc (Hons) Newcastle, PhD (Aberdeen)

   John Day Building: 2.02
   Tel:  +27 (0)21 650 3304
   Fax: +27 (0)21 650 3295


Activities and research interests

Arjun Amar is an Avian Conservation Biologist with a focus on raptor conservation. He grew up in Nottingham, England and obtained a BSc Hons in Zoology from Newcastle University. Following research on Augur Buzzards in Kenya, Montagu’s Harriers in France and Common Buzzards in Scotland and the South of England, he carried out his PhD research examining the cause of the dramatic decline of a population of hen harriers on the Orkney Islands (Scotland), which was awarded in 2001 from Aberdeen University. Arjun then worked as a post-doctoral scientist for the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, undertaking research to help resolve the long standing conflict between hen harrier conservation and red grouse shooting on the Grouse moors of England and Scotland. In 2003, a post-doc position with the US Fish and Wildlife Service took Arjun to the tiny Pacific Island of Rota, one of the Northern Mariana Islands, where he undertook research on the declining critically endangered Mariana Crow. For the next six years Arjun worked as a Senior Conservation Scientist for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds based at both their UK and Scottish Headquarters, before joining the FitzPatrick Institute in 2010.

Arjun’s research interests lie in understanding the processes that regulate animal distributions, demography and population dynamics, and applying this understanding to the conservation biology of declining populations. He is particularly interested in establishing causes of population declines, understanding the mechanisms that drive these declines and identifying appropriate remedial management to reverse or prevent these trends. His research has included work on raptors, waders and passerines in the uplands, woodland birds, lowland waders, and tropical forest birds and bats. Other research has focused on human-wildlife conflicts and he has published a number of papers surrounding the raptor-gamebird conflict. Arjun has been an associated Editor for Ibis since 2008.

Current students


Chima Nwaogu: How do urbanization, weather patterns and plumage colour polymorphism relate to differences in breeding performance and physiological responses in the Black Sparrow-hawk Accipiter melanoleucus


Christiaan Brink: Investigating the viability and potential impact of vulture restaurants as a strategy to conserve South Africa’s plummeting vulture populations. (Co-supervisors: Robert Thomson,  Andrea Santangeli

Carina Nebel: Understanding the mechanism promoting polymorphism in Black sparrowhawks (Co-supervisor: Petra Sumasgutner)

Edmund Rodseth: The genetic basis of plumage polymorphism in the Black Sparrowhawk (Co-supervisor: Robert Ingle) - registered in the MCB dept, UCT

Miqkayla Stofberg: Global change and urban birds: impacts of heat stress and junk food on foraging and body condition in Red-winged Starlings (Co-supervisor: Susie Cunningham)

Masters (Dissertation)

Kailen Padayachee: Using raptors as sentinel species to monitor environmental contamination in South Africa (Co-supervisor: Chevonne Reynolds)

Masters (Conservation Biology)


René Brink: Do circular development buffers capture the breeding and non-breeding movements of territorial raptors? (Co-supervisor: Megan Murgatroyd)

Previous Post-doctoral Fellows

Megan Murgatroyd. July 2016 - June 2019. Conserving Verraux's eagles. Currently a 'International Conservation Biologist' at HawkWatch International.

Petra Sumasgutner. May 2014 - July 2019. Understanding urban raptor populations. Currently a PostDoctoral Fellow at the University of Vienna.

Ralf Mullers. 2011 - 2014. Ecology of the Shoebill in the Bangweulu Swamps, Zambia.  Currently a lecturer at Van Hall Larenstein, University of Applied Sciences, Leeuwarden, Netherlands.

Tiwonge Mzumara-Gawa. 2015 - 2016. Conservation Ecology of Lillian's Lovebird. Currently a lecturer at Malawi University of Science and Technology.

Graduated students


Garbett, Rebecca. Dec 2018. Conservation of raptors and vultures in Botswana: with a focus on Lappet-faced Vultures Torgos tracheliotos

Marie-Sophie Garcia-Heras. June 2017. Integrating ecological parameters, foraging strategies and health status for the conservation of avian predators:  the case of the threatened Black Harrier Circus maurus.  (Co-supervisors: Rob Simmons, Beatriz Arroyo, Francois Mougeot).  Currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Oregon State University - visit her Google Scholar profile here.

Rowen van Eeden. June 2017. Understanding the cause of Martial Eagle declines in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Gareth Tate. Dec 2016. Investigating plumage polymorphism in the Black Sparrowhawk Accipiter melanoleucus. (Co-supervisor: Jacqui Bishop).  Currently the Birds of Prey Programme Manager at the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Murgatroyd, Megan. June 2016. Ecology of the Verreaux's Eagle in natural and agriculturally transformed habitats in South Africa. (Co-supervisor: Les Underhill) Currently a 'International Conservation Biologist' at HawkWatch International.

Sonja Krüger. Dec 2014. Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus meridionalis population dynamics and conservation in the 21st Century (Co-supervisor: Rob Simmons).  Currently an Ecological Advisor, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife - Scientific Services - visit her Google Scholar page here.

Masters (Dissertation)

Jessie Berndt. 2015. Conservation biology of the Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus in South Africa: protected area dependent or ranch-land colonist? (Co-supervisors: Andrew Jenkins, Res Altwegg).

Lisle Gwynn. 2015. The identity, origin and impact of a 'new' Buzzard species breeding in South Africa (Co-supervisor: Phil Hockey)

Masters (Conservation Biology)

Rebecca Muller. 2019. The urban ecology of crowned eagles. (Co-supervisors: Petra Sumasgutner, Shane McPherson)

Daryl van der Merwe. 2019. Environmental factors affecting breeding success in Martial Eagles. (Co-supervisor: Megan Murgatroyd)

Sarah Catto. 2018. Fluctuating human activity and associated anthropogenic food availability affect behaviour and parental care of Red-winged starlings (Co-supervisors: Susan Cunningham,  Petra Sumasgutner)

Leungo Leepile. 2018.  Changes in nesting numbers and breeding success of African White-backed Vultures in northern Botswana (Co-supervisor: Glyn Maude)

Tapiwa Zimunya. 2018: The influence of vulture restaurants on breeding success and nestling body condition of Gyps vulture populations across southern Africa. (Co-supervisor: Robert Thomson) 

Carles Dura. June 2017. Quantifying the level of predation on tortoises by pied crows in south western South Africa (Co-supervisor: Robert Thomson)

Christiaan Brink. 2016. The reintroduction of bearded vultures in South Africa: a feasibility analysis.  Currently a PhD student at the Fitztitute, investigating the viability and potential impact of vulture restaurants as a strategy to conserve South Africa's plummeting vulture populations, co-supervised by Robert Thomson, Arjun Amar and Andrea Santangeli.

Jessleena Suri. June 2016. Street-wise: does prey abundance buffer Sparrowhawks (Accipiter melanoleucus) from the negative health impacts of urbanisation?  Currently a PhD student in the Biological Sciences Department at UCT

Alex Atkins. June 2015. An experimental assessment of the efficacy of falconry to mitigatehuman-wildlife conflict: Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptica at golf courses.  

Liezl le Roux. June 2015. The relationship between MHC diversity, parasite load and mate choice in Black Sparrowhawks (Accipiter melanoleucus) (Co-supervisor: Jacqui Bishop)

Dara Sands. Dec 2015. Avian sensitivity map for Lesotho: a tool to aid planning and conservation in relation to the development of wind farms and associated wind energy infrastructure. (Co-supervisors: Rob Simmons, Samantha Ralston) Currently a PhD student at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

Tabby Stokes. June 2014. A participatory risk-benefit analysis to evaluate the ecological and social implications of three management strategies to mitigate human-baboon conflict on the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. (Co-supervisors: Justin O'Riain, Carly Cowell)

Daniël Cloete. Dec 2013. Understanding the decline of the Martial Eagles (Polemaetus bellicosus) in South Africa. Currently a PhD student investigating ornithophilous systems to determine fragmented Fynbos patch thresholds (size and isolation distance) for ecosystem functioning in the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park, under the supervision of Mark Brown, Phoebe Barnard and Peter Ryan.

Chrissie Madden. June 2013. The impact of corvids on biodiversity.  Currently a PhD student in the Biological Sciences Department at UCT.

Kat Forsythe. June 2013. Exploring the relationship between restored ecosystem function and species composition: a meta-analysis (Co-supervisor: Peter Carrick)  Currently an Ecological Consultant at Anchor Environmental Consultants.

Lovelater Sebele. June 2012. Breeding phenology of an expanding raptor population - the Black Sparrowhawk. Currently a lecturer at Gwanda State University.

BSc Hons

Michelle Vrettos, Kyle Walker


Recent peer-reviewed publications


Brink, C.W,, Santangeli, A., Amar, A., Wolter, K., Tate, G., Krüger, S., Tucker, A.S. and Thomson, R.L. 2020. Quantifying the spatial distribution and trends of supplementary feeding sites in South Africa and their potential contribution to vulture energetic requirements. Animal Conservation 

Chamberlain, D.E., Reynolds, C., Amar, A., Henry, D., Caprio, E. & Batáry, P. (in press). Wealth, water and wildlife: landscape aridity intensifies the urban Luxury Effect. Global Ecology & Biogeography.

Leepile, L.B.L., Maude, G., Hancock, P., Reading, R.P., Bridges, B., Hartley, R. and Amar, A. 2020. Changes in nesting numbers and breeding success of African White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus in north-central Botswana. Bird Conservation International

McClure, C.J., Westrip, J.R., Johnson, J.A., Schulwitz, S.E., Virani, M.Z., Davies, R., Symes, A., Wheatley, H., Thorstrom, R., Amar, A., Buij, R., Jones, V.R., Williams, N.P., Buechley, E.R. and Butcharte, S.H.M. 2020. Raptor conservation priorities must incorporate evolution, ecology, and economics, in addition to island endemism. Biological Conservation 

Muller, R., Amar, A., Sumasgutner, P., McPherson, S.C. and Downs, C.T. 2020. Urbanization is associated with increased breeding rate, but decreased breeding success, in an urban population of near-threatened African Crowned Eagles. The Condor


Amar, A., Reynolds, C., Van Velden, J. and Briggs, C.W. 2019. Clinal variation in morph frequency in Swainson’s hawk across North America: no support for Gloger’s ecogeographical rule. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 

Atkins, A., Little, R.M., Redpath, S.M. and Amar, A. 2019. Impact of increased predation risk on vigilance behaviour in a gregarious waterfowl, the Egyptian goose Alopochen aegyptiacaJournal of Avian Biology 

Chamberlain, D.E., Henry, D.A., Reynolds, C., Caprio, E. and Amar, A. 2019. The relationship between wealth and biodiversity: A test of the Luxury Effect on bird species richness in the developing world. Global Change Biology 25: 3045-3055. 

Murgatroyd, M., Redpath, S.M., Murphy, S.G., Douglas, D.J., Saunders, R. and Amar, A. 2019. Patterns of satellite tagged hen harrier disappearances suggest widespread illegal killing on British grouse moors. Nature communications, 10(1): 1094.

Mzumara, T.I., Martin, R.O., Tripathi, H., Phiri, C. and Amar, A. 2019. Distribution of a habitat specialist: Mopane woodland structure determines occurrence of Near Threatened Lilian’s Lovebird Agapornis lilianaeBird Conservation International pp.1-10. doi:10.1017/S0959270918000370 

Naude, V.N., Smyth, L.K., Weideman, E.A., Krochuk, B.A. and Amar, A. 2019. Using web-sourced photography to explore the diet of a declining African raptor, the Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus). The Condor 121:1-9. 

Nebel, C., Sumasgutner, P., Pajot, A. and Amar, A. 2019. Response time of an avian prey to a simulated hawk attack is slower in darker conditions, but is independent of hawk colour morph. Royal Society Open Science, 6(8): 190677.

San-Jose, L.M., Séchaud, R., Schalcher, K., Judes, C., Questiaux, A., Oliveira-Xavier, A., Gémard, C., Almasi, B., Béziers, P., Kelber, A. and Amar, A. 2019. Differential fitness effects of moonlight on plumage colour morphs in barn owls. Nature ecology & evolution 

Stofberg, M., Cunningham, S.J., Sumasgutner, P. and Amar, A. 2019. Juggling a “junk-food” diet: responses of an urban bird to fluctuating anthropogenic-food availability. Urban Ecosystems 1-8.


Amar, A. and Cloete, D. 2018. Quantifying the decline of the Martial Eagle Polemaetus belliscosus in South Africa. Bird Conservation International 28: 363-374.

Garbett, R., Herremans, M., Maude, G., Reading, R.P. and Amar, A. 2018. Raptor population trends in northern Botswana: A re-survey of road transects after 20 years. Biological Conservation 224: 87-99. 

Garbett, R., Maude, G., Hancock, P., Kenny, D., Reading, R. and Amar, A. 2018. Association between hunting and elevated blood lead levels in the critically endangered African white-backed vulture Gyps africanus. Science of the Total Environment 631-632: 1654-1665. 

McClure, C.J.W., Westrip, J.R.S., Johnson, J.A., Schulwitz, S.E., Virani, M.Z., Davies, R., Symes, A., Wheatley, H., Thorstrom, R., Amar, A., Buij, R., Jones, V.R., Williams, N.P., Buechley, E.R. and Butchart, S.H.M. 2018. State of the world’s raptors: distributions, threats, and conservation recommendations. Biological Conservation 227: 390-402.

McKechnie, A.E. and Amar, A. 2018. Missing the bigger picture: a response to Beale (2018). Ostrich 89: 151-152.

Murgatroyd, M., Roos, S., Evans, R., Sansom, A., Whitfield, D.P., Sexton, D., Reid, R., Grant, J. and Amar, A. 2018. Sex-specific patterns of reproductive senescence in a long-lived reintroduced raptor. Journal of Animal Ecology 87: 1587-1599.

Murgatroyd, M., Photopoulou, T., Underhill, L.G., Bouten, W. and Amar, A. 2018. Where eagles soar: fine-resolution tracking reveals the spatiotemporal use of differential soaring modes in a large raptor. Ecology and Evolution 8: 6788-6799.

Smart, J. and Amar, A. 2018. Diversionary feeding as a means of reducing raptor predation at seabird breeding colonies. Journal of Nature Conservation 46: 48-55.

Sumasgutner, P., Rose, S., Koeslag, A. and Amar, A. 2018. Exploring the influence of urbanization on morph distribution and morph-specific breeding performance in a polymorphic African raptor. Journal of Raptor Research 52: 19-30.

Amar, A. & Cloete, D. 2017. Quantifying the decline of the Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus in South Africa. Bird Conservation International, 1-12.

Atkins, A., Redpath, S.M., Little, R.M. and Amar, A. 2017. Experimentally manipulating the landscape of fear to manage problem animals. Journal of Wildlife Management.

Krüger, S. and Amar, A. 2017. Insights into post-fledging dispersal of Bearded Vultures Gypaetus barbatus in southern Africa from GPS satellite telemetry. Bird Study 64: 125-131.

Krüger, S.C. and Amar, A. 2017. Productivity of the declining Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus population in southern Africa. Ostrich 88: 139-145. 

Redpath, S., Thompson, A. and Amar, A. 2017. Female begging calls reflect nutritional need of nestlings in the hen harrier Circus cyaneus. BMC Evolutionary Biology 17: 144.

Suri, J., Sumasgutner, P., Hellard, É., Koeslag, A. and Amar, A. 2017. Stability in prey abundance may buffer Black Sparrowhawks Accipiter melanoleucus from health impacts of urbanization. Ibis. 159: 38-54.

Tate, G. J. and Amar, A. 2017. Morph specific foraging behavior by a polymorphic raptor under variable light conditions. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 9161.

van Velden, J.L., Koeslag, A., Curtis, O., Gous, T., and Amar, A. 2017. Negative effect of mite (Knemidokoptes) infection on reproductive output in an African raptor. Auk 134: 498-508.

Van Eeden, R., Whitfield, D.P., Botha, A. and Amar, A. 2017. Ranging behavior and habitat preferences of the Martial Eagle: implications for the conservation of a declining apex predator. PLoS ONE 12: e0173956.


Amar, A. 2016. Using independent nest survey data to validate changes in reporting rates of Martial Eagles between the Southern African Bird Atlas Project 1 and 2. Ostrich 87:1-5.

Cunningham, S.J., Madden, C., Barnard, P. and Amar, A. 2016. Electric crows: power lines, climate change and the emergence of a native invader. Diversity and Distributions 22:17-29.

Douglas, D.J.T., Buchanan, G.M., Thompson, P., Amar, A., Fielding, D.A., Redpath, S.M. and Wilson, J.D. 2016. Vegetation burning for game management in the UK uplands is increasing and overlaps spatially with soil carbon and protected areas. Biological Conservation 191: 243-250.

Garcia-Heras, M-S., Arroyo, B., Mougeot, F., Amar, A., and Simmons, R.E. 2016. Does timing of breeding matter less where the grass is greener? Seasonal declines in breeding performance differ between regions in an endangered endemic raptor. Nature Conservation 15: 23-45.

Leighton, G.R.M., Hugo, P.S., Roulin, A. and Amar, A. 2016. Just Google it: assessing the use of Google Images to describe geographical variation in visible traits of organisms. Methods in Ecology and Evolution

Murgatroyd, M., Avery, G., Underhill, L.G., and Amar, A. 2016. Adaptability of a specialist predator: the effects of land use on diet diversification and breeding performance of Verreaux’s eagles. Journal of Avian Biology

Murgatroyd, M., Underhill, L.G., Bouten, W., and Amar, A. 2016. Ranging behavior of Verreaux’s Eagles during the pre-breeding period determined through the use of high temporal resolution tracking. PLoS ONE 11: e0163378.

Murgatroyd, M., Underhill, L.G., Rodrigues, L., and Amar, A. 2016. The influence of agricultural transformation on the breeding performance of a top predator: Verreaux’s Eagles in contrasting land use areas. The Condor 118: 238-252.

Sumasgutner, P., Millán, J., Curtis, O., Koelsag, A. and Amar, A. 2016. Is multiple nest building an adequate strategy to cope with inter-species nest usurpation? BMC Evolutionary Biology 16: 97 IF 3.406

Sumasgutner, P., Tate, G.J., Koeslag, A. and Amar, A. 2016. Seasonal patterns in space use of Black Sparrowhawks Accipiter melanoleucus in an urban environment. Bird Study.

Sumasgutner, P., Tate, G. J., Koeslag, A. and Amar, A. 2016. Family morph matters: Factors determining survival and recruitment in a long-lived polymorphic raptor. Journal of Animal Ecology. doi. 10.1111/1365-2656.12518

Suri, J., Sumasgutner, P., Hellard, E., Koeslag, A. and Amar, A. 2016. Stability in prey abundance may buffer Black Sparrowhawks from health impacts of urbanization. Ibis.

Tate, G.J., Bishop, J.M. and Amar, A. 2016. Differential foraging success across a light level spectrum explains the maintenance and spatial structure of colour morphs in a polymorphic bird. Ecology Letters

Tate, G.J., Sumasgutner, P., Koeslag, A. and Amar, A. 2016. Pair complementarity influences reproductive output in the polymorphic black sparrowhawk (Accipiter melanoleucus). Journal of Avian Biology 47: 001-012. 


Katzenberger, J., Tate, G., Koeslag, A. and Amar, A. 2015. Black Sparrowhawk brooding behavior in relation to chick age and weather variation in the recently colonized Cape Peninsula, South Africa. Journal of Ornithology 156: 903-913.

Krüger, S.C., Reid, T. and Amar, A. 2015. Differential range use between age classes of southern African Bearded Vultures Gypaetus barbatus. PLoS ONE 9: e114920.

Krüger, S.C., Simmons, R.E. and Amar, A. 2015. Anthropogenic activities influence the abandonment of Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) territories in southern Africa. Condor 117: 94-107.

Madden, C.F., Arroyo, B. and Amar, A. 2015. A review of the impacts of corvids on bird productivity and abundance. Ibis 157.

Mullers, R.H.E. and Amar, A. 2015. Shoebill Balaeniceps rex foraging behaviour in the Bangweulu Wetlands, Zambia. Ostrich 86: 113-118.

Mullers, R.H.E. and Amar, A. 2015. Parental nesting behavior, chick growth and breeding success of Shoebills (Balaeniceps rex) in the Bangweulu Wetlands, Zambia. Waterbirds 38: 1-9.

Reid, T., Krüger, S., Whitfield, D.P. and Amar, A. 2015. Using spatial analyses of bearded vulture movements in southern Africa to inform wind turbine placement. Journal of Applied Ecology 52: 881-892.

Zarones, L., Sussman, A., Morton, J.M., Plentovich, S., Faegre, S., Aguon, C., Amar, A. and Ha, R.R. 2015. Population status and nesting success of the critically endangered Aga or Mariana Crow (Corvus kubaryi) on Rota, Northern Mariana Islands. Bird Conservation International 25: 220-223.


Amar, A. & Esselstyn, J. 2014. Positive association between rat abundance and breeding success of the Critically Endangered Mariana Crow Corvus kubaryi Bird Conservation International 24:192-200.

Amar, A., Koeslag, A., Malan, G., Brown, M. & Wreford, E. 2014. Clinal variation in the morph ratio of Black Sparrowhawks Accipiter melanoleucus in South Africa and its correlation with environmental variables. Ibis 156: 627-638.

Arroyo, B., Leckie, F., Amar, A., McCluskie, A., Redpath, S. 2014. Ranging behaviour of Hen Harriers breeding in Special Protection Areas in Scotland. Bird Study 61: 48-55.

Krüger, S., Allan, D., Jenkins, A. & Amar. A. 2014. Trends in territory occupancy, distribution and density of the Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus meridionalis in southern Africa. Bird Conservation International 24: 162-177.

Mackay, B., Little, R., Amar, A. & Hockey, P.A.R. 2014. Incorporating environmental considerations in managing Egyptian geese on golf courses in South Africa. Journal of Wildlife Management 78: 671-678.

Martin, R.O., Koeslag, A., Curtis, O & Amar, A., 2014. Fidelity at the frontier: divorce and dispersal in a newly colonised raptor population. Animal Behaviour 93: 59-68.

Martin, R.O., Sebele, L., Koeslag, A., Curtis, O., Abadi, F. & Amar, A. 2014. Phenological shifts assist colonisation of a novel environment in a range-expanding raptor. Oikos 123:1457-1468.

Mustin, K., Amar, A. & Redpath, S.M. 2014. Colonization and extinction dynamics of a declining migratory bird are influenced by climate and habitat degradation. Ibis 156:788-798.

Van der Wal, R., Miller, D., Irvine, J., Fiorini, S., Amar, A., Yearly, S., Gill, R. & Dandy, N. 2014. The influence of information provision on people’s landscape preferences: A case study on understorey vegetation of deer-browsed woodlands. Landscape and Urban Planning 124:129-139.


Amar, A., Koeslag, A. & Curtis, O. 2013. Plumage polymorphism in a newly colonized black sparrowhawk population: classification, temporal stability and inheritance patterns. Journal of Zoology 289:60-67.

Lei, B., Amar, A., Koeslag, A., Gous, T.A. & Tate, G.J. 2013. Differential haemoparasite intensity between black sparrowhawk (Accipiter melanoleucus) morphs suggests an adaptive function for polymorphism. PLoS ONE 8:e81607.

Redpath, S.M., Young, J., Evely, A., Adams, W.M., Sutherland, W.J., Whitehouse, A., Amar, A., Lambert, R.A., Linnell, J.D.C., Watt, A. & Gutiérrez, R.J. 2013. Understanding and managing conservation conflicts. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28:100-109.