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Personal profile

Research interests

Mating systems and parental behaviour

Family life is rife with conflicts. Not only the interests of parents and their offspring may be different, but the male and the female parents may also disagree how much care each should provide for their offspring.

My group investigates bird species to understand how conflict and cooperation influences family lives. We study birds in their natural populations, and build mathematical models to understand their behaviour. In plovers the sexual conflict is expressed when the chicks hatch: in some families the female, whereas in others the male, abandons the brood. We have discovered that the parents carefully evaluate the costs and benefits of this tug-of-war, and now we are investigating whether their behaviour has any genetic basis.

Penduline tits have one of the most exciting mating systems: both parents start looking for a new mate before they actually complete their clutch. What determines whether the male or the female cares for the chicks? How do parents solve their conflict? In this project we are aiming to understand some of the basic components of sexual conflict over mating & care.

Breeding systems in shorebirds

Shorebirds have exceptionally diverse breeding systems. Some shorebirds are polygamous, whether others are monogamous, or polyandrous. Why do shorebirds exhibit this unusual diversity? How did this diversity evolve? To answer these questions my group is using phylogenetic analyses.

Conservation of wetland birds

Many waterbird populations are declining. We carry out fieldwork in some of the most exciting places on the planet, and use phylogenetic methods to identify what makes a species decline. If you live in a country where endangered waterbirds live, we like to hear from you.


I have ongoing collaborations with several research institutions that include University of Groningen, Bristol University and Debrecen University.

Fingerprint Fingerprint is based on mining the text of the person's scientific documents to create an index of weighted terms, which defines the key subjects of each individual researcher.

wader Earth & Environmental Sciences
Charadrius alexandrinus Agriculture & Biology
parental care Earth & Environmental Sciences
Charadriidae Agriculture & Biology
nests Agriculture & Biology
reproductive strategy Earth & Environmental Sciences
dimorphism Agriculture & Biology
sexual selection Agriculture & Biology

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Projects 2006 2022

Research Output 2000 2019

1 Citation (Scopus)

Conserved transcriptomic profiles underpin monogamy across vertebrates

Young, R. L., Ferkin, M. H., Ockendon-Powell, N. F., Orr, V. N., Phelps, S. M., Pogány, Á., Richards-Zawacki, C. L., Summers, K., Székely, T., Trainor, B. C., Urrutia, A. O., Zachar, G., O’Connell, L. A. & Hofmann, H. A., 22 Jan 2019, In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 116, 4, p. 1331-1336 6 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Offspring sex ratio is unrelated to parental quality and time of breeding in a multiple-breeding shorebird

Que, P., Székely, T., Wang, P., Lu, Q., Lei, W., Liu, Y. & Zhang, Z., 1 Apr 2019, In : Journal of Ornithology. 160, 2, p. 443-452 10 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Parental care and the evolution of terrestriality in frogs

Vági, B., Végvári, Z., Liker, A., Freckleton, R. P. & Székely, T., 30 Apr 2019, In : Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 286, 1900, p. 1-10 10 p., 20182737.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access

Sex ratios and bimaturism differ between temperature-dependent and genetic sex-determination systems in reptiles

Bókony, V., Milne, G., Pipoly, I., Székely, T. & Liker, A., 18 Feb 2019, In : BMC Evolutionary Biology. 19, 1, p. 57 57.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Open Access

Social Behaviour: Males Help When Mates Are Rare

Kingma, S. A. & Székely, T., 20 May 2019, In : Current Biology. 29, 10, p. R370-R372

Research output: Contribution to journalShort survey


Breeding ecology and conservation of the Kentish Plover in Saudi Arabia

Author: Alrashidi, M., 1 May 2010

Supervisor: Szekely, T. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Breeding system evolution in relation to adult sex ratios

Author: Carmona Isunza, C., 1 Mar 2017

Supervisor: Szekely, T. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Breeding System Evolution of Malagasy Plovers: Natural Behaviours and Experiments

Author: Parra, J., 26 Jan 2015

Supervisor: Szekely, T. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Comparative transcriptome profiling in wild species: uncovering gene expression signatures of mating systems

Author: Ockendon, N., 2 Mar 2015

Supervisor: Urrutia, A. (Supervisor) & Szekely, T. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Conservation biology of the endangered St. Helena Plover Charadrius sanctaehelenae

Author: Burns, F., 1 Jun 2011

Supervisor: Szekely, T. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD