Avian Behavioural Ecology Lab


Welcome to the Animal Behavioural Ecology Lab...

Research conducted in this lab seeks to understand both how and why animals behave the way that they do. Our research therefore targets both the proximate and ultimate factors underpinning behaviour, and spans topics from applied questions with important conservation implications (e.g. BMAD) right through to fundamental science examining important evolutionary questions such as the evolution of cooperation (e.g. Noisy Miner project). Most of our projects use birds as a model due to their amenability and, when it comes down to it, their pretty amazing behaviours.


The lab's research encompasses a range of species and locations as briefly outlined below. For more information on what we do, please visit our Animal Behavioural Ecology Lab page.

Our Research

One of the great things about science is that researchers get to ask interesting questions, work with incredible animals and go to some pretty special places. I've been fortunate to travel to many parts of the world working on behaviour, from the steep slopes of Mount Cook in New Zealand chasing Kea, through to the surprising splendour of the Western Treatment Plant (WTP) in Victoria, one of the world's great birding locations. While the hours can be long and the work physical, the rewards far outweigh these. Below are some of the research topics that the lab has investigated.

  • Noisy Miners: communication, networks, cooperation
  • Bell Miners: kin selection in complex societies
  • Bell Miner Associated Dieback (BMAD)
  • Sex allocation and dimorphism in raptors

holding a pair of birdsGood day out near WTP, just don't go swimming...

fieldwork glamour
Taking down equipment near Gosford, NSW for an experiment testing the importance of predation pressure on the evolution of begging signals. It got damp at times.

kea hunting
Working very hard looking for Kea at Mount Cook, New Zealand.

Research Student Opportunities

The Avian Behavioural Ecology Lab is recruiting honours and postgraduate students in areas of behaviour/natural history, including areas such as the following topics.

  • Noisy Miners: acoustic communication, social networks, understanding cooperation and conflict in societies
  • Passerines: trade-offs between visual and acoustic signals of individual quality and attractiveness
  • Bell Miner Associated Dieback (BMAD)
  • Sex allocation and dimorphism in raptors
  • Waterfowl behaviour and movement in varying landscapes
  • Sex allocation and dimorphism in raptors


Please visit our Avian Behavioural Ecology Lab page and contact Paul McDonald for more information.

P: +61 2 6773 3317
E: paul.mcdonald@une.edu.au

Further Information

To find out more about potential research opportunities, our current research, publications and lab members, please see our Animal Behavioural Ecology Lab page.

Our People

Related Publications


If you are interested in some of the projects that ABEL members are undertaking or have ideas that fall into similar areas, contact:

Associate Professor Paul McDonald
Animal Behavioural Ecology Lab (ABEL)
Integrated Agricultural Education Building (W77)
University of New England
Armidale NSW 2351
Phone: +61 2 6773 3317
Email: paul.mcdonald@une.edu.au