Professor Tim R Birkhead FRS

Professor Birkhead

Tel: +44 (0)114 222 4622
Fax: +44 (0)114 222 0002

email :

Page 2 of Professor Birkhead's website

Page 3 (teaching webpage page)


BSc (1972) University of Newcastle; DPhil (1976) University of Oxford
Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader in Zoology, University of Sheffield (1976-92)
Professor of Behavioural Ecology, University of Sheffield (1992-present)
Fellow of the Royal Society 2004
Senate Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching 2007
Teacher of the Year Award 2009, Animal & Plant Sciences
Elliot Coues medal 2010 for outstanding and innovative contributions to ornithological research
ASAB medal (Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour) 2012 for outstanding contributions to the study of animal behaviour
UK Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award (2013)
Zoological Society of London Silver Medal 2014 for contributions to the understanding and appreciation of zoology, including such activities as public education in natural history
Eisenmann Medal (Linnaean Society of New York) 2015 for excellence in ornithology and encouragement of the amateur

Undergraduate Teaching

View Teaching Webpage

  1. Coordinator & Lecturer on Level 1 module APS126 Behaviour of Humans and other Animals.
  2. Coordinator & Lecturer on Level 3 module APS327 History and Philosophy of Science.

Key Research Interests

image of birds

I have three main research areas:

  1. Post-copulatory sexual selection, mainly in birds.
  2. Population biology of birds.
  3. The history of science, and of reproduction and ornithology in particular.

Professional Activities (1995 onwards)

  1. Organiser of the Biology of Spermatozoa biennial meetings ( 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013).  The next meeting will take place Monday 7 September to Friday 11 September 2015 at Hassop Hall, nr Bakewell, Derbyshire.  For further details please contact Lisa Knight
  2. Leverhulme Research Fellowship (1995-1996)
  3. President of the International Society for Behavioural Ecology (1996-1998)
  4. Winner of Consul Cremer Prize for 'The Red Canary' 2003
  5. Winner of 'Best Bird Book of 2009' for 'The Wisdom of Birds'
  6. Tim's TED lecture on the origins of ornithological science:
  7. Founder (with Mark Cocker, Jeremy Mynott and John Fanshawe) of New Networks for Nature
  8. Curator of the Alfred Denny Museum (1980-present) (see also: Cabinet of Curiosities events, in the Sheffield Festival of the Mind)
  9. President of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) (2013-2016)

Speaker at the following meetings

image of Professor Birkhead

  • Speaker: When senses take flight, Royal Society, September 2014
  • Keynote Speaker: Scottish Ornithologists' Club, Aberdeen, March 2014
  • Cheltenham Science Festival 2013 and 2014
  • Plenary Lecture: European Ornithologists' Union, Norwich, August 2013
  • Speaker: Alfred Russel Wallace and his legacy, The Royal Society, October 2013
  • Annual Open Lecture, University of Kent, Canterbury: Darwin and Sexual Selection, February 2013
  • Annual Research Lecture, Oxford Brookes University, March 2013
  • Cornell University, Department of Behaviour and Neurobiology: talk on Darwin and Post-copulatory sexual selection, November 2012
  • Stamford Raffles Lectures, Zoological Society of London, June 2012
  • Niko Tinbergen Lecture, Leiden, May 2012
  • Royal Society London, Lecture on Francis Willughby, March 2012

Current Research Group and Students

Lab-group web page:

Postdoctoral Researchers

Nicola Hemmings

Nicola Hemmings (2011-2016)
ERC funded: Sperm transport


Clair Bennison

Clair Bennison (2013-2016)
ERC Funded: Sperm production


Dr Alex Ball

Alex Ball (2015-2016)
ERC Funded: Sperm production


Research Students

Image of Tania Mendonca

Tania Mendonca (2013-2016)
Funded by: University of Sheffield 2022 Futures Studentship


Image of Elspeth Kenny

Elspeth Kenny (2013-2016)
Funded by: University of Sheffield Scholarship



Phil Young

Phil Young
Research Technician


Lynsey Gregory

Lynsey Gregory
Research Technician


Gemma Smith

Gemma Smith
Research Technician


Jamie Thompson

Jamie Thompson
Research Technician


Emily Glendenning

Emily Glendenning
Research Technician


Ashley Payne

Ashley Payne
Research Technician


Tim Birkhead has supervised a total of 37 PhD students and has acted as external examiner for the degree of Ph.D. at the following universities:-

Oxford (1983), Liverpool (1983), Glasgow (1984), Cambridge (1984), Durham (1984), Open University (1984), Cambridge (1985), Sussex (1985), Memorial University, Newfoundland (1987), Oxford (1987), Glasgow (1987), Cambridge (1988), Oxford (1988), Aberdeen (1989), Leicester (1989), Glasgow (1989), Oxford (1990), Oxford (1991), Leicester (1992), Stirling (1992), St. Andrews (1992), Nottingham (1994), Cambridge (1994), Oslo (Norway) (1994), Open University (1995), Oxford (1995), Uppsala (1995), York (1996), Oslo (1996), Melbourne, Australia (1997), Leicester (1997), Paisley College (1997), Glasgow (1997), Oslo, Norway (1998 x 2), Glasgow (2000). Sterling (2001) La Trobe, Australia (2002), Flinders, Australia (2003), Dalhousie, Canada (2003), Brisbane, Australia (2003), Oslo (2006) and many others.

Recent Publications

Parker, G.A. & Birkhead, T.R. 2013 Polyandry: the history of a revolution. Phil. Trans. R, Soc. B 368 20120335 doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0335

Mossman, J.A., Slate, J., Birkhead, T.R., Moore, H.D.M. & Pacey, A.A. 2012 Sperm speed is associated with sex bias of siblings in a human population. Asian Journal of Andrology 2012: 1-3

Immler, S., Griffith, S.C., Zann, R. & Birkhead, T.R. 2012 Intraspecific variation in sperm morphometry: a comparison between wild and domesticated zebra finches Taeniopygia guttata. Ibis 154: 480-487

Hemmings, N., Slate, J. & Birkhead, T.R. 2012 Inbreeding causes early death in a passerine bird. Nature Communications 3: 863-870

Meade, J., Hatchwell, B.J., Blanchard, J., Birkhead, T.R. 2012 The population increase of common guillemots on Skomer Island is explained by intrinsic demographic properties. J.Avian Biology 43:001-007

Immler, S., Pitnick, S., Parker, G. A., Durrant, K. L, Lupold, S., Calhim, S. & Birkhead, T. R. 2011. Resolving variation in the reproductive trade-off between sperm size and number. PNAS, 108: 5325-5330

Birkhead, T. R., Hemmings, N., Spottiswoode, C. N., Mikuclica, O., Moskat, C., Ban, M. & Schulze-Hagen, K. 2011. Internal incubation and early hatching in brood parasitic birds. Proc. R. Soc. B., 278: 1019-1024.

Topfer, T., Haring, E., Birkhead, T. R., Lopes, R. J., Severinghaus, L. L., Martens, J. & Packert, M. 2011. A molecular phylogeny of bullfinches Pyrrhula Brisson, 1760 (Aves:: Fringillidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 58: 271-282.

Lupold, S., Wistuba, J., Damm, O., Rivers, J. W. & Birkhead, T. R. 2011. Sperm competition leads to functional adaptations in avian testes to maximise sperm quality and quantity. Reproduction, 141: 595-605

Go to page 2 of Prof Tim Birkhead's website


APS126 Behaviour of humans and other animals

APS327 History and Philosophy of Science

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