Special issue of Ostrich in memory of Phil Hockey

28 May 2015 - 09:45

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 caeruleaon 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