Prof Will Cresswell

Professor of Biology

Harold Mitchell Top floor
tel. 01334 463010
fax. 01334 463366

I have two major research interests: behavioural ecology of birds and conservation ecology of birds.

Behavioural Ecology

My interests in behavioural ecology centre mainly around understanding how animals manage their risk of predation and how predators then compensate themselves to maximise their chance of catching prey. I concentrate on studying how small birds such as blackbirds or redshanks avoid depredation by raptors such as sparrowhawks or peregrines. I am also interested in foraging behaviour and the conflict between the need to forage and scan for predators, transfer of foraging and predator information between individuals, nest predation, incubation and foraging energetics, interference competition, individual foraging specialisations and variation in competitive ability and pursuit-deterrent signalling. A particular current research interest is how we measure and determine the non-lethal effects of predation risk.

Research Group: Present and past members

  1. Lorraine Wilson (2013-2016): NERC Daphne Jackson Post-doctoral Research Fellow studying how to monitor distribution and behaviour of birds remotely using passive acoustic arrays and its application to monitor the non-lethal effects of wind turbines.
  2. Nwaogu Chima Josiah (2014-2017): Leventis Conservation Foundation and University of Groningen joint funded and supervised student. Immune responses and the immunobiome of residents and migrants within Africa.
  3. Nigel Kenworthy (2013-2017): NERC PhD student studying how lethal and non-lethal effects structure communities (sandhoppers to redshanks to sparrowhawks).
  4. Charline Couchoux (2011): Masters student studying the existence of personality in individual redshanks' anti-predation decisions.
  5. Alex Sansom (2005 - 2009): NERC PhD student investigating the fitness consequences of anti-predation behaviour in individual redshank.
  6. Johan Lind (2003 - 2005) : Post-doc research fellow studying inter-specific and intraspecific variation in vigilance, management of predation risk and the development of anti-predation behaviour.
  7. Ross MacLeod (2005 - 2006): Post-doc investigating the relationship between mass in birds and fitness using BTO ringing data.
  8. John Quinn (2001 - 2004): Post-doc research fellow studying individual management of predation risk and hunting behaviour in raptors, based at the EGI, Oxford (Leverhulme Trust)

Representative publications (for full list see below)

  • Macleod, C.D., Macleod, R. Learmonth, J.A., Cresswell, W. & Pierce, G.J. (2014). Predicting population level risk effects of predation from the responses of individuals. Ecology 95: 2006-2015.
  • Cresswell, W. & Quinn, J.L. (2013) Contrasting risks from different predators change the overall non-lethal effects of predation risk. Behavioral Ecology 24: 871-876.
  • Couchoux, C. & Cresswell, W. (2012) Personality constraints versus flexible anti-predation behaviours: how important is boldness in risk management of redshanks (Tringa totanus) foraging in a natural system. Behavioral ecology 23:290-301.
  • Cresswell, W. & Quinn, J.L. (2011) Predicting the optimal group-size from predator hunting behaviour. Journal of Animal Ecology 80: 310-319.
  • Cresswell, W., Lind, J. & Quinn, J.L. (2010) Predator hunting success and prey vulnerability: quantifying the spatial scale over which lethal and non-lethal effects of predation occur. Journal of Animal Ecology 79:556-562.
  • Cresswell, W., Clark, J. & Macleod, R. (2009) How climate change might influence the starvation-predation risk trade-off response. Proceedings of the Royal Society: Series B 276: 3553-3560.

Conservation Ecology

My interests in conservation ecology centre mainly on the factors determining the density and distribution of endemic, declining and migrant birds. I am particularly interested in understanding the wintering ecology of Palearctic migrants birds in Africa so that we can address their widespread population declines. Much of this is based in West Africa and associated with the AP Leventis Ornithological Research Institute in Jos, Nigeria (APLORI ). I collect baseline survey and habitat association data necessary to formulate conservation strategies for endangered and declining birds. I also am interested in the effects of forest fragmentation on African birds, survival rates of tropical birds, differences in the foraging/predation trade-off between tropical and temperate birds and the use of degraded and farmland habitats by African birds and Palearctic migrant species.

Research Group: Present and past members

(Mainly funded by the Leventis Conservation Foundation but also other BirdLife sponsors)

  1. Emma Blackburn (2011 – 2015):  PhD student studying factors determining the density and distribution of Palearctic migrants wintering in West Africa, using a bottom up individual based approach.
  2. Sam Ivande (2011 – 2015):  PhD student studying factors determining the density and distribution of Palearctic migrants wintering in West Africa, using a top down, landscape and habitat selection approach.
  3. Tamara Davies (2010 – 2014): PhD student studying the link between biodiversity and sustainability: a case study in the Solomon Islands.
  4. Jenny Thomas (2010): Masters student examining the effects of fragmentation on bird communities in the long term very highly fragmented environment of Fife, Scotland.
  5. Daniel Cox (2009 - present): PhD student studying how seasonality impacts on the life history of tropical birds.
  6. Marina Xenophontos (2008 - present) : PhD student studying the effects of climate and habitat change on restricted range species: a case study of the endemic Cyprus Wheatear.
  7. Tim Jones (2008) : Masters student examining how the phenology mismatch hypothesis (as a consequence of climate change) might account for migrant bird declines.
  8. Shiiwua Manu (2003 - 2008): Post-doc research fellow studying the effects of forest fragmentation on bird biodiversity and also the foraging ecology of African birds
  9. Matthew Stevens (2006 - 2010): PhD student studying the survial and other life history aspects of tropical birds.
  10. Miriam Brandt (2004 - 2007): PhD student studying the competitive interactions that lead to ecological separation in closely related seedeaters, with particular emphasis on the endemic Rock Firefinch
  11. Mark Hulme (2003 - 2007): PhD student studying the use of farmland by West African bird species
  12. Ross McGregor (2001 - 2006) : PhD student studying the effects of seasonality on tropical birds and survival rates of tropical birds
  13. Mark Watson (2004) : Post-doc studying the nest survival and breeding habitat requirements of the endangered Sociable Lapwing in Kazakstan
  14. Jared Wilson (2001 - 2005): PhD student studying the factors determining the density and distribution of Palearctic migrants wintering in West Africa

Representative publications (for full list see below)

  • Hunter, M. & Cresswell, W. (2015) Factors affecting the distribution and abundance of the volcano rabbit Romerolagus diazi on the Iztaccihuatl volcano. Oryx 49:366-375.
  • Cresswell, W. (2014). Migratory connectivity of Palearctic-African migratory birds and their responses to environmental change: the serial residency hypothesis. Ibis. 156: 493-510.
  • Davies, T.E., Pettorelli, N., Cresswell, W. & Fazey, I.R.A. (2014). Who are the poor? Measuring wealth inequality to aid understanding of socioeconomic contexts for conservation: a case study from the Solomon Islands. Environmental Conservation 41: 357-366.
  • Hulme, M. & Cresswell, W. (2012) Density and behaviour of Whinchats Saxicola rubetra on African farmland suggest that winter habitat conditions do not limit European breeding populations. Ibis 154:680-692.
  • Wilson, J.M. & Cresswell , W. (2010) The Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe in the Sahel of West Africa: distribution, seasonal variation in abundance and habitat associations. Ostrich 81:115-121.
  • Stevens, M.C., Sheehan, D.K., Wilson, J.M., Buchanan, G.M. & Cresswell, W. (2010) Changes in Sahelian bird biodiversity and tree density over a five year period in Northern Nigeria. Bird Study 57:156-174.
  • Jones, T. & Cresswell, W. (2010) The phenology mismatch hypothesis: Are declines of migrant birds linked to uneven global change? Journal of Animal Ecology 79:98-108.
  • Cresswell, W., Wilson, J.M., Vickery J., Jones, P. & Holt, S. (2007) Changes in densities of Sahelian bird species in response to recent habitat degradation. Ostrich 78:247-253.
(source: symbiosis database)