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Fellows Directory

Tim Birkhead

Tim Birkhead

Professor Tim Birkhead FRS


Elected: 2004


Tim Birkhead is a zoologist whose research focuses on populations of birds and their reproduction. Tim has made important contributions to the field of behavioural ecology — the study of how animal behaviour evolves under the influence of environmental pressures. He also studies the competitive actions of male birds’ sperm.

He showed that extrapair paternity — where the offspring raised by a pair are the result of the female mating with an outsider male — is common amongst birds. Tim also demonstrated the existence of ‘guarding techniques’, which are carried out by the male bird in a pair. In studies of the zebra finch, he revealed that the sperm of the last male to mate with a female took precedence for fertilising her eggs.

Tim is the author of Bird Sense: What it’s Like to be a Bird (2012), a popular science book that discusses life as a bird and was shortlisted for the Royal Society’s Winton Prize for Science Books in 2013. His TED talk, The Early Birdwatchers, has received over 100,000 views.

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Organismal biology, evolution and ecology
    • Evolution, Ethology
  • Other
    • History of science, Public understanding of science
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