Tim Birkhead FRS is emeritus professor of behaviour and evolution at the University of Sheffield. His research on promiscuity and sperm competition in birds re-shaped our understanding of bird mating systems. He has also maintained – through Crowd Funding —a fifty-year long-term study of guillemots on Skomer Island, Wales.
The Great Auk: greed, death and regret
Fifty years of studying auks on various offshore islands has allowed me to reconstruct the life of ultimate auk: the great auk — the most iconic of extinct birds. No ornithologist ever saw one alive and our ability to evaluate the great auk’s life rests on its extraordinary afterlife. All that remains of the great auk are a few empty eggshells, some mounted specimens and some skeletal material, preserved for posterity mostly by a succession of obsessive collectors. Not only do these relics tell a fascinating story, they also provide a poignant reminder of what we have lost and what we may yet still lose.