Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr Petra Sumasgutner

Petra Sumasgutner

John Day Building: 1.02
Tel: +27 (0)21 650 3292
Fax: +27 (0)21 650 3295


Petra's diploma studies focused on raptor research and conservation biology. Her PhD thesis at the University of Vienna, Austria was entitled 'Costs and benefits in the settlement decisions of the Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)' and was a collaboration between the Department of Integrative Zoology, the bird collection at the Natural History Museum, Vienna and the Section of Ecology at the University of Turku, Finland. The study investigated whether city dwelling raptors such as kestrels are attracted to breed in the city centre by favourable conditions, such as the ready availability of suitable nest sites or high levels of potential prey, or are pushed out of rural areas by unfavourable conditions there. By means of an experimental approach, Petra was further able to substantiate the use of public information in settlement decisions, thus broadening her expertise in the field of behavioural ecology.

After research in urban ecology and in remote areas in northern Europe, in 2014 Petra migrated south and joined the FitzPatrick Institute as a PostDoctoral Fellow in the Raptor Research group supervised by Dr Arjun Amar. The project aims to understand the establishment of urban raptor populations. On the Cape Peninsula, urban breeding Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus minor) and Black Sparrowhawks (Accipiter melanoleucus) have been monitored since their colonisation. Petra will analyse that comprehensive data set to address factors underlying the expansion of both urban raptor populations.

Research Programmes

Raptor research

Recent peer-reviewed publications


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(1).


Rose, S.*, Sumasgutner, P.*, Koeslag, A. and Amar, A. 2017. Does seasonal decline in breeding performance differ for an African raptor across an urbanisation gradient? Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 5(47). (* contributed equally to the manuscript)

Suri, J., Sumasgutner, P.,  Hellard, E., Koeslag, A. and Amar, A. 2017. Stability in prey abundance may buffer Black Sparrowhawks from health impacts of urbanisation. Ibis 159:38–54.


Kreiderits, A., Gamauf, A., Krenn, H.W. & Sumasgutner, P. 2016. Investigating the influence of local weather conditions and alternative prey composition on the breeding performance of urban Eurasian kestrels (Falco tinnunculus). Bird Study

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.

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 85:1043–1055.

Sumasgutner, P., Tate, G., Koeslag, A. and Amar, A. 2016. Seasonal home ranges of black sparrowhawks (Accipiter melanoleucus) breeding in an urban environmen. Bird Study.

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