skip to content

Department of Zoology



I am a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge and a research associate at the Fitzpatrick Institute for African Ornithology in Cape Town. 

A love of natural history is at the core of my work. I became interested in science as a child through watching birds, first in Cape Town and then in UK. This has led to a life-long avian obsession that has taken me to do fieldwork on birds around the world - including in Peru, Ghana, Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique, Greece and Romania.


Mimicry and speciation in the parasitic finches of Africa

I study the nature of biological diversity and the processes that generate it. I focus particularly on speciation, mimicry and the role of learning in generating novel adaptations. The brood-parasitic indigobirds and whydahs (Vidua spp.), which I researched for my PhD, are a brilliant system for investigating these topics. My work uses a mixture of natural history observation, behavioural experiments, bioinformatics and lab work to study the radiation of Vidua and their host species, particularly focusing on what limits the former’s diversification.

The hosts of the Vidua finches, the Estrildidae, possess arguably the most spectacular mouthpart ornamentation of any group of birds (see photos). These markings are important signals in mediating parent-offspring interactions. In collaboration with Professor Michael Sorenson (Boston University) and Professor Rebecca Kilner (University of Cambridge), I am studying the evolution of these mouthpart markings across the family.

Even more remarkably, the nestlings of the parasitic indigobirds and whydahs exhibit mouthpart markings that are near-perfect matches of their host’s. In collaboration with Dr Jolyon Troscianko (Exeter University) I am quantifying this similarity from an avian visual perspective. Additionally, with Professor Michael Sorenson (Boston University) and Dr Chris Balakrishnan (University of North Carolina), I am using next-generation sequencing approaches to understand the molecular basis of this mimetic convergence.

The evolution of egg diversity in prinias

I am currently a BBSRC-funded post-doctoral research associate at the University of Cambridge. My current work focuses on the interactions between the brood-parasitic Cuckoo Finch (Anomalospiza imberbis) and its Tawny-flanked Prinia (Prinia subflava) hosts. Prinias have evolved incredibly diverse eggs which vary dramatically in colour and pattern between individuals. In collaboration with Professor Michael Sorenson of Boston University and Professor Claire Spottiswoode of Cambridge/University of Cape Town, I am currently investigating the genetic basis of this diversity and the consequences of this genetic architecture for the co-evolutionary trajectories in the ongoing arms race between prinias and their Cuckoo Finch parasites.

Ornithological exploration and conservation in Africa

I am involved in ornithological expeditionary work and the conservation of African birds. I am a Research Associate at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town (

In November 2016, I was part of an expedition to the Njesi Plateau in northern Mozambique with researchers from BINCO. Together with Sam Jones, we discovered new populations of the highly endangered Mozambican Tailorbird (Artisornis sousae) and Dapplethroat (Modulatrix orostruthus) as well as finding two species previously unrecorded from Mozambique.


Key publications: 
    • McClelland, S. C., Jamie, G. A., Waters, K., Caldas L., Spottiswoode, C. N., Portugal, S. J. (2019) Convergent evolution of reduced eggshell conductance in avian brood parasites. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 20180194 in press
    • Jamie, G. A. & Kilner, R.M. (2017) Begging call mimicry by brood parasite nestlings: adaptation, manipulation and development in Avian Brood Parasitism edited by Manuel Soler, Springer Publishing Company
    • Jamie, G.A. (2017) Signals, cues and the nature of mimicry. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284 (1849), 2016208
    • Péron, G., Altwegg, R., Jamie, G.A. & Spottiswoode, C.N. (2016) Coupled range dynamics of brood parasites and their hosts responding to climate and vegetation changes. Journal of Animal Ecology doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12546.
    • Jamie, G.A. & de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2014) Similarity of the calls of juvenile Pied Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus and its Sri Lankan host species, Yellow-billed Babbler Turdoides affinisForktail 30: 133-134
    • Briscoe, A.D., Macias-Muñoz, A., Kozak, K.M., Walters, J.R., Yuan, F., Jamie, G.A., Martin, S.H., Dasmahapatra, K.K., Ferguson, L.C., Mallet, J., Jacquin-Joly, E., & Jiggins, C.D. (2013) Female behaviour drives expression and evolution of gustatory receptors in butterflies. PLOS Genetics 9: e1003620.
    • Nichols, H.L., Jordan, N., Jamie, G.A., Cant, M. & Hoffman, J.I. (2012) Fine-scale spatiotemporal patterns of genetic variation reflect budding dispersal coupled with strong natal philopatry in a cooperatively breeding mammal. Molecular Ecology 21: 5348-5362.
    • Lawson, A.J., Hindley, G.F., Forshew, T., Tatevossian, R.G., Jamie, G.A., Kelly, G.P., Neale, G.A., Ma, J.G., Jones, T.A., Ellison, D.W. & Sheer, D. (2011) RAF gene fusion breakpoints in pediatric brain tumors are characterized by significant enrichment of sequence microhomology. Genome Research 21: 505–514.
    Other publications: 
    • Jamie, G. A., McClean, L., Moya, C., Spottiswoode, C. N. (2019) The chick of the Locust Finch Paludipasser locustellaBulletin of the African Bird Club. in press
    • Bryan, K. M. & Jamie, G. A. (2019) Little Bee-eater Merops pusillus feeding two Greater Honeyguide Indicator indicator fledglings in BotswanaBulletin of the African Bird Club. in press
    • Jones, S. E. I. & Jamie, G. A. (2017) Avifauna of the Njesi Plateau, Niassa, Mozambique in The Njesi Plateau Expedition Report, Biodiversity Express Survey 6.1 by Jones, S. E. I. & Clause, J. & Geeraert, L., Jamie, G. A. & Sumbane, E. & van Berkel, T. & Jocqué, M.
    • Jamie, G.A. (2016) Locust Finches (Paludipasser locustella) breeding in Choma District, Zambia. The Wattled Crane 46(4): 3–6.
    • Jamie, G.A. & de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2016) Mimicry of Sri Lanka Crested Drongo Dicrurus lophorinus by Fork-tailed Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus dicruroidesBirdingASIA 25: 82–83.
    • Jamie, G.A., Moya, C. & Hamusikili, L. (2016) Incubation and nest-defence behaviour of Streaky-breasted Flufftail Sarothrura boehmi in Zambia. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 23: 82–85.
    • Sevillano Rios, S., Jamie, G.A., Vidos, J.Q., Slongo, H. (2013) Black Bushbird in Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, Peru - the most southerly record and a first for the Department of Puno. Cotinga
    • Sevillano Rios, S. & Jamie, G.A. (2012) Avian mist-netting report from Cerro Cuchilla, Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, Peru. RAP Working Papers.
    • Jamie, G.A. (2008) An Eastern Savi’s Warbler in Romania. Dartford Ringing Journal.
    • Jamie, G.A. (2007) A Romanian Bird Diary. Dartford Ringing Journal.