Dr Paul McDonald

Associate Professor - School of Environmental and Rural Science

Paul McDonald

Phone: +61 2 6773 3317

Email: paul.mcdonald@une.edu.au


BSc(Hons I)(Adv)(UoW), PhD(ANU), PGCertHEd (Macq)

Teaching Areas

I am the unit coordinator of Animal Behaviour (ZOOL326: 300-level first semester unit) and contribute lectures to Biology (100 level first semester unit) on animal structure, function and behaviour.

Research Interests

  • Cooperation and conflict in complex social groups
  • Ecological consequences of sociality, in particular:      Bell Miner Associated Dieback (BMAD)
  • Signal structure, communication and      bioacoustics
  • Social network analysis and remote tracking technology
  • Behavioural ecology/animal behaviour generally

Avian Behavioural Ecology Lab (More information on my research)

Behavioural and Physiological Ecology




Lambert KTA, McDonald PG (2014) A low-cost, yet simple and highly repeatable system for acoustically surveying cryptic species. Austral Ecology. In press. doi:10.1111/aec.12143.

McDonald PG. (2014) Cooperative breeding beyond kinship: why else do helpers help? Emu. 114: 91-96.

Warrington MH, McDonald PG, Rollins LA, Griffith SC. (2014) All signals are not equal: acoustic signalling of individuality, sex and breeding status in a cooperative breeder. Animal Behaviour 93: 249-260.

Warrington MH,McDonald PG, Sager A, Griffith SC. (2014) The vocal repertoire of the cooperatively breeding Apostlebird,Struthidae cinereaEmu. In press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU13051.


Kopps A, McDonald PG, Rollins LA. (2013) Isolation and characterisation of polymorphic microsatellite loci for Noisy Miners Manorina melanocephala, with successful cross-amplification in Bell Miners M. melanophrys. Conservation Genetics Resources. 5: 39-41.

Kross SM, McDonald PG, Nelson XJ. (2013) New Zealand falcon nests suffer lower predation in agricultural habitat than in natural habitat. Bird Conservation International. 23: 512-519.


McDonald PG . (2012) Cooperative bird differentiates between the calls of different individuals, even when vocalizations were from completely unfamiliar individuals. Biology Letters. 8, 365-368.

McDonald PG , Griffith SC (2012) Feather sampling provides an unreliable source of DNA that may well have significant long-term impacts: a reply to Katzner et al. Journal of Avian Biology. 43, 18-20.

McDonald PG , Olsen J, Rose AB (2012) The diet of breeding Brown Falcons (Falco berigora) in the Canberra region, Australia, with comparisons to other regions. Journal of Raptor Research. 46: 394-400.


McDonald PG , Griffith SC (2011) To pluck or not to pluck: The hidden ethical and scientific costs of relying on feathers as a primary source of DNA. Journal of Avian Biology 42, 197-203.

McDonald PG , Wright J (2011) Bell miner provisioning calls are more similar among relatives and are used by helpers at the nest to bias their effort towards kin. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278, 3403-3411.


Haythorpe KH, McDonald PG (2010) Non-lethal foraging by bell miners on a herbivorous insect: potential implications for forest health. Austral Ecology 35, 444-450.

McDonald PG , Ewen J, Wright J. (2010) Brood sex ratio does not affect helper effort in a cooperative bird, despite extreme sex-biased dispersal. Animal Behaviour 79, 243-250.

Wilson, DR, McDonald PG, Evans CS (2010) Mechanisms of mate investment in the polygamous fowl, Gallus gallus. Ethology 116, 755-762.

Wright J, McDonald PG , te Marvelde L, Kazem AJN, Bishop C (2010) Helping effort increases with relatedness in bell miners, but 'unrelated' helpers of both sexes still provide substantial care. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 277, 437-445.


Kennedy RAW, Evans CS, McDonald PG (2009) Individual distinctiveness in the mobbing call of a cooperative bird, the noisy miner Manorina melanocephala. Journal of Avian Biology 40, 481-490.

McDonald PG , Kazem AJN, Wright J (2009) Cooperative provisioning dynamics: fathers and unrelated helpers show similar responses to manipulations of begging. Animal Behaviour77, 369-376.

McDonald PG , Wilson DR, Evans CS (2009) Nestling begging increases predation risk, regardless of parental defense or spectral characteristics. Behavioral Ecology 20, 821-829.

te Marvelde, L, McDonald PG , Kazem AJN, Wright J (2009) Do helpers really help? Provisioning biomass and prey type effects on nestling growth in the cooperative bell miner. Animal Behaviour 77, 727-735.


Dare AJ, McDonald PG , Clarke MF (2008) The social and behavioural dynamics of territory establishment in the Bell Miner Manorina melanophrys. Emu108,175-180.

McDonald PG , Wright J (2008) Provisioning vocalizations in cooperative bell miners: More than a simple stimulus for nestling begging? Auk 125, 670-678.

McDonald PG , Kazem AJN, Clarke MF, Wright J (2008) Helping as a signal: does removal of potential audiences alter helper behavior in the bell miner? Behavioral Ecology 19, 1047-1055.

*This paper recently highlighted as a 'must read' by Faculty of 1000 Biology*

McDonald PG , te Marvelde L, Kazem AJN, Wright J (2008) Helping as a signal and the effect of a potential audience during provisioning visits in a cooperative bird. Animal Behaviour 75, 1319-1330.

Pacheco ML, McDonald PG , Wright J, Kazem AJN, Clarke MF (2008) Helper contributions to anti-parasite behavior in the cooperatively breeding bell miner. Behavioral Ecology19,558-566.


Dare AJ, McDonald PG , Clarke MF (2007) The ecological context and consequences of colonisation of a site by Bell Miners Manorina melanophrys. Wildlife Research 34, 616-623.

McDonald PG , Heathcote CF, Clarke MF, Wright J, Kazem AJN (2007) Provisioning calls of the cooperatively breeding bell miner Manorina melanophrys encode sufficient information for individual discrimination. Journal of Avian Biology 38, 113-121.

McDonald PG , Kazem AJN, Wright J (2007) A critical analysis of 'false-feeding' behavior in a cooperatively breeding bird: disturbance effects, satiated nestlings or deception? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology61, 1623-1635.


McDonald PG , Baker-Gabb DJ (2006) The breeding diet of different brown falcon (Falco berigora) pairs occupying the same territory over two decades apart. Journal of Raptor Research 40, 228-231.


McDonald PG , Olsen PD, Cockburn A (2005) Selection on body size in a raptor with pronounced reversed sexual size dimorphism: are bigger females better? Behavioral Ecology16, 48-56.

McDonald PG , Olsen PD, Cockburn A (2005) Sex allocation and nestling survival in a dimorphic raptor: does size matter? Behavioral Ecology16, 922-930.


McDonald PG (2004) The breeding ecology and behaviour of a colour-marked population of Brown Falcons Falco berigora. Emu 104, 1-6.

McDonald PG , Williams NP (2004) Brown falcon Falco berigora pair successfully raise Australian Hobby F. longipennis nestlings. Australian Field Ornithology 21, 40-44.

McDonald PG , Olsen PD, Cockburn A (2004) Weather dictates reproductive success and survival in the Australian brown falcon Falco berigora. Journal of Animal Ecology 73, 683-692.


McDonald PG (2003) Nestling growth and development in the brown falcon Falco berigora: a new method of sex determination and an improved ageing formula. Wildlife Research 30, 411-418.

McDonald PG (2003) Variable plumage and bare part colouration in the Brown Falcon Falco berigora: the influence of age and sex. Emu103, 21-28.

McDonald PG (2003). Whistlers, In: Encyclopaedia of Birds(Ed. By Perrins C). Firefly Books, Ltd, New York. p477.

McDonald PG (2003) A successful extra-limital breeding record of the Black Kite Milvus migrans south-west of Melbourne, Victoria. Australian Field Ornithology 20, 17-20.

McDonald PG , Fonseca CR, Overton JM, Westoby M (2003) Leaf size divergence along rainfall and soil nutrient gradients: Is the method of size reduction common among clades? Functional Ecology17, 50-57.

McDonald PG , Olsen PD, Baker-Gabb DJ (2003) Territory fidelity, reproductive success and prey choice in the Brown Falcon Falco berigora: a flexible bet-hedger? Australian Journal of Zoology 51, 399-414.


McDonald PG (2001) The function of vocalisations and aggressive behaviour used by male rufous whistlers, Pachycephala rufiventris. Emu101, 65-72.

McDonald PG , Astheimer LB, Buttemer WA (2001) Gonadal and hormonal phenology in free-living male rufous whistlers, Pachycephala rufiventris (Passeriformes: Pachycephalidae). Australian Journal of Zoology 49, 651-662.

McDonald PG , Buttemer WA, Astheimer LB (2001) The influence of testosterone on territorial defense and parental behavior in male free-living rufous whistlers, Pachycephala rufiventris. Hormones and Behavior 39, 185-194.


McDonald PG (2009) Book review: Sociobiology of communication. International Society for Behavioral Ecology Newsletter 21:14.