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Department of Zoology



I am a PhD student currently investigating the mechanisms and ecological consequences of host specificity in honeyguides. Part of my PhD focusses on bringing together two distinct strings of greater honeyguide life history: their lives as brood parasites of bee-eaters, kingfishers, hoopoes and others; and their lives as mutualists with human honey-hunters (for more information see and

I completed my BSc at the University of Cape Town and did my BSc Honours project on the thermoregulation of pygmy falcons in the Kalahari. I also participated in projects on pollination biology of orchids, heterospecific eavesdropping in birds, the use of sociable weaver nests as a resource in the Kalahari, and the adaptive significance of the black skin of cuckoo finch chicks. I joined Claire Spottiswoode’s research group in 2019 as an MSc student, based at the University of Cape Town, where I investigated the near-perfect mimicry by African cuckoos of fork-tailed drongo eggs.


My research focuses on the ways in which species interact, and the consequences of these interactions on the evolutionary trajectories of populations. I am particularly interested in the coevolutionary interactions of avian brood parasites and their hosts, and the role of phenotypic plasticity in facilitating host-specific adaptations. My research is predominantly field-based, involving observation and experiments of behaviour and physiology, but I supplement this with genetic and genomic data.


Key publications: 

McClelland S. C., Reynolds M., Cordall M., Hauber M. E., Goymann W., McClean L. A., Hamama S., Lund J., Dixit T., Louder M. I. M., Safari I., Honza M., Spottiswoode C. N., Portugal S. J. 2021. Embryo movement is more frequent in avian brood parasites than birds with parental reproductive strategies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 288:20211137.

Lund J., Bolopo D., Thomson R. L., Elliott D. L., Arnot L. F., Kemp R., Lowney A. M., McKechnie A. E. 2020. Winter thermoregulation in free-ranging pygmy falcons in the Kalahari Desert. Journal of Ornithology 161:549–555.

Postgraduate Student