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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.


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  • Seasonal variation in sex-specific immunity in wild birds

    Valdebenito, J. O., Halimubieke, N., Lendvai, A. Z., Figuerola, J., Eichhorn, G. & Szekely, T., 14 Jan 2021, In: Scientific Reports. 11, 1349.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
  • Association of insularity and body condition to cloacal bacteria prevalence in a small shorebird

    Valdebenito, J. O., Martínez-De La Puente, J., Castro, M., Perez-Hurtado, A., Tejera, G., Szekely, T., Halimubieke, N., Schroeder, J. & Figuerola, J., 17 Aug 2020, In: PLoS ONE. 15, 8, p. e0237369 e0237369.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
  • Breeding ecology of the Cream-coloured Courser in Cape Verde

    Rice, R., Valdebenito, J. O., Ottensmann, M., Engel, N., Adrião, A. & Székely, T., 2020, In: Ostrich. 91, 1, p. 65-73

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
  • Climate and mating systems as drivers of global diversity of parental care in frogs

    Vági, B., Végvári, Z., Liker, A., Freckleton, R. P. & Székely, T., 11 May 2020, In: Global Ecology and Biogeography.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
  • Dense sampling of bird diversity increases power of comparative genomics

    Feng, S., Stiller, J., Deng, Y., Armstrong, J., Fang, Q., Reeve, A. H., Xie, D., Chen, G., Guo, C., Faircloth, B. C., Petersen, B., Wang, Z., Zhou, Q., Diekhans, M., Chen, W., Andreu-Sánchez, S., Margaryan, A., Howard, J. T., Parent, C., Pacheco, G. & 130 others, Sinding, M. H. S., Puetz, L., Cavill, E., Ribeiro, Â. M., Eckhart, L., Fjeldså, J., Hosner, P. A., Brumfield, R. T., Christidis, L., Bertelsen, M. F., Sicheritz-Ponten, T., Tietze, D. T., Robertson, B. C., Song, G., Borgia, G., Claramunt, S., Lovette, I. J., Cowen, S. J., Njoroge, P., Dumbacher, J. P., Ryder, O. A., Fuchs, J., Bunce, M., Burt, D. W., Cracraft, J., Meng, G., Hackett, S. J., Ryan, P. G., Jønsson, K. A., Jamieson, I. G., da Fonseca, R. R., Braun, E. L., Houde, P., Mirarab, S., Suh, A., Hansson, B., Ponnikas, S., Sigeman, H., Stervander, M., Frandsen, P. B., van der Zwan, H., van der Sluis, R., Visser, C., Balakrishnan, C. N., Clark, A. G., Fitzpatrick, J. W., Bowman, R., Chen, N., Cloutier, A., Sackton, T. B., Edwards, S. V., Foote, D. J., Shakya, S. B., Sheldon, F. H., Vignal, A., Soares, A. E. R., Shapiro, B., González-Solís, J., Ferrer-Obiol, J., Rozas, J., Riutort, M., Tigano, A., Friesen, V., Dalén, L., Urrutia, A. O., Székely, T., Liu, Y., Campana, M. G., Corvelo, A., Fleischer, R. C., Rutherford, K. M., Gemmell, N. J., Dussex, N., Mouritsen, H., Thiele, N., Delmore, K., Liedvogel, M., Franke, A., Hoeppner, M. P., Krone, O., Fudickar, A. M., Milá, B., Ketterson, E. D., Fidler, A. E., Friis, G., Parody-Merino, Á. M., Battley, P. F., Cox, M. P., Lima, N. C. B., Prosdocimi, F., Parchman, T. L., Schlinger, B. A., Loiselle, B. A., Blake, J. G., Lim, H. C., Day, L. B., Fuxjager, M. J., Baldwin, M. W., Braun, M. J., Wirthlin, M., Dikow, R. B., Ryder, T. B., Camenisch, G., Keller, L. F., DaCosta, J. M., Hauber, M. E., Louder, M. I. M., Witt, C. C., McGuire, J. A., Mudge, J., Megna, L. C., Carling, M. D., Wang, B., Taylor, S. A., Del-Rio, G., Aleixo, A., Vasconcelos, A. T. R., Mello, C. V., Weir, J. T., Haussler, D., Li, Q., Yang, H., Wang, J., Lei, F., Rahbek, C., Gilbert, M. T. P., Graves, G. R., Jarvis, E. D., Paten, B. & Zhang, G., 12 Nov 2020, In: Nature. 587, 7833, p. 252-257 6 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
    2 Citations (Scopus)
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