Richard Bufton

University of Birmingham


Hot in the city: how does the urban heat island effect influence activity budgets of birds


Dr James Reynolds, Prof Jon Sadler and Prof Lee Chapman, University of Birmingham

PhD Summary

It is well known that towns and cities have higher temperatures than the surrounding countryside and it is also known that temperatures affect activities of birds, but in what ways? Do birds eat different foods at different temperatures? Do they need to alter their breeding activities? Are natural food supplies temporally different in cities? The questions can go on and on…… The project will use a pre-existing network of weather stations and bird-feeders, linked to schools across Birmingham, to monitor the activities of birds and assess their energy budgets. This will enable the science curriculum in schools to be linked directly to the temperatures and birds right outside the classroom window! A fantastic opportunity for the pupils and teachers and for me too.

What inspires you

What first inspired my interest in wildlife? I have no idea! I have been fascinated by birds for longer than I can remember. It may well have been my grandfather showing me a Dipper in the River Clun: he knew his birds, was a superb nest finder and even hand-reared a Corncrake before releasing it into the wild.

Previous activity

I did a degree in Accountancy after leaving school, then had a twenty-year career in Nursing, before finally doing what I should have done in the first place: a BSc. in Conservation Biology. That was followed by jobs doing quality control in a factory that made bird-rings, bird-ringing in Sussex, GPS tagging seabirds in the Isles of Scilly with the RSPB and the University of Exeter, working in Tesco, supporting people with learning and physical difficulties, satellite tagging Turtle Doves with the RSPB (again) and an MSc. in Applied Wildlife Conservation.

Why did you choose doctoral research?

Between leaving nursing and returning to university, I spent two months working as a bird-ringer/radio-tracker on a research project in the south of France. I loved it! Researching ring-necked parakeets in Richmond Park, London for my undergraduate thesis sealed it. I love research and there is no bigger research project for one person than a PhD project. It just had to be birds!

Why did you choose CENTA?

All CENTA studentships are centred on research that will contribute directly to our understanding and management of the natural environment. As we humans change the environment around us simply by living our modern lives. We have a responsibility to look after the environment, to retain all the biodiversity which surrounds us. We can only do this if we know what is there and how we should look after it. Knowing that my research work would directly affect the way we look after wildlife in cities and towns is highly important to me. Research is always great, but research should have a practical impact.

Future plans

I am fascinated by birds and always want to know more about them. After completing a PhD I aim to work in ornithological research.