Grants available, and Will Feeney seminar: 'Frontline interactions betwe

To: CanberraBirds <>
Subject: Grants available, and Will Feeney seminar: 'Frontline interactions between avian interspecific brood parasites and their hosts'
From: "David McDonald (personal)" <>
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2014 16:43:55 +1000
Some years ago the Canberra Birds Conservation Fund was able to support William Feeney's doctoral research at the Research School of Biology at The Australian National University. He investigated the nature of coevolved reciprocal adaptations prior to egg insertion by the parasite in the host nest (the ‘front-line’). The research focused on the interactions between the Superb Fairy-wren and the Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo. The research site was Gungahlin Hill Nature Reserve in Canberra.

Will has now completed this work and has published some fascinating papers from it. His PhD exit seminar will be held at ANU (Gould seminar room in Gould building) on Wednesday 23 July at 1pm - all are welcome to attend. Here is the abstract for the presentation:
Studying interactions within and between species provides opportunities to observe consequences of natural selection. Interspecific  brood  parasitism  is  a  bizarre  breeding strategy, in which  a parasite manipulates a host from another species to raise its offspring. Brood parasitism is generally costly to the host, and the resulting interactions have produced some of the most charismatic examples of reciprocal evolution in nature.
I have been studying these interactions for the past 3 years, and in this seminar I will discuss some of my findings. Using the Australian superb fairy-wren as a model to study host defences I ask: How do they learn what a cuckoo is? Is recognition specific? Do they change their behaviour when cuckoos are around? And does cooperation help these birds defend their nests against brood parasitism?
I then use the African cuckoo finch, and the Australian Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo, as models to study parasite counter-adaptations. Adult African cuckoo finches bear a  striking  resemblance  to  harmless  weavers  (little brown  birds),  and  I  investigated  whether  this resemblance had evolved to disguise them from their hosts.  The  Horsfield’s  bronze-cuckoo  parasitizes  a variety of host species, and I investigated whether their eggs are tailored to be disguised in the nests of these different hosts.

This further demonstrates the value of the Canberra Birds Conservation Fund in attaining COG's objectives:
    To encourage interest in, and develop knowledge of, the birds of the Canberra region
    To promote and co-ordinate the study of birds
    To promote the conservation of native birds and their habitats.

You are welcome to make tax-deductible donations to the Fund. You may also consider making provision in your will for a bequest to the Fund.

In addition, the Fund is always keen to receive applications to support activities that assist in attaining the objectives stated above, with special reference to the Canberra region. Although all the projects supported to date have been for research or monitoring, applications covering other types of projects are also welcome.

For further information on the projects funded, and on how to apply for a grant,  please visit or contact the undersigned.

Thanks - David
David McDonald
Convenor, Canberra Birds Conservation Fund
1004 Norton Road
Wamboin NSW 2620
T: (02) 6238 3706
M: 0416 231 890
F: (02) 9475 4274
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