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My research group currently studies avian biomechanics, predator-prey interactions and how flocks of birds communicate via calling in flight. Our work emphasizes understanding how birds integrate sensory perceptions, cognition and flight. Projects include:

  • Kinematics of raptor take-off and maneuvering flight: Working with local falconers and the Cape May Raptor Banding Project, we use 3D video to study how a wide variety of diurnal raptors (birds like hawks, falcons and eagles) take off and maneuver in flight.
  • The biomechanics of peacock mating displays: What mechanisms do peacocks use to create their astonishing multiimodal courtship displays, which encompass mechanical sound production and iridescent feather motion? This project is a collaboration with Roslyn Dakin, Robert Montgomerie and James Hare.
  • Raptor pursuit strategies: working with an international team of over a dozen participating falconers, we are studying how falcons, hawks and other raptors find, track and capture their prey. Our methods combine the use of tiny animal-borne cameras worn by the birds that record their environment with ground-based video and computer models that let us interpret. Watch out for our first paper on this project: "Falcons pursue prey using visual motion cues: new perspectives from animal-borne cameras", Suzanne Amador Kane & Marjon Zamani, to appear in The Journal of Experimental Biology on 15-1-14.
  • How raptors search their environment visually during foraging for prey and during prey pursuits: experimental characterization and theoretical modeling of the statistics of raptor saccadic head motion
  • Flocking and calling: how do flocks of chimney swifts and cliff swallows use calling to form flocks and to regulate flock dynamics?
  • Birds on a wire: what are the dynamical properties of group formation when birds land on power lines, fences and other perches?
  • Mobbing: In mobbing, prey animals (in our studies, barn swallows and terns) harass and attack a predator (such as a raptor such as the sharp-shinned or Cooper’s hawks that can prey upon local birds). We have used particle-tracking methods and statistical analyses to understand and model the dynamical rules governing this behavior using model raptors to stimulate mobbing reactions in these species.


  • Paul Mundell (Physics & Engineering, '17) Kinematics of diurnal raptor take-off flight
  • Owen McCrossan (Drexel University Physics, '18) Biomechanics of peacock mating displays
  • Nathan Gould (Physics '15) Flocking and calling in Chimney Swifts
  • Samuel Yarosh (Physics & Engineering '17) Flocking and calling in Chimney Swifts
  • Andrew ("Harvey") Fulton (Physics and Biophysics '14) goshawk and red-tailed hawk pursuit strategies, birds on a wire
  • Elliott Schwartz (Physics '14) birds on a wire
  • Lee Rosenthal (Physics '15) goshawk and red-tailed hawk pursuit strategies, birds on a wire
  • Marjon Zamani (Physics and Biophysics '13) experiments and analysis of raptor saccadic head motions, flocking and calling by chimney swifts and falcon pursuit strategies. Coauthored our Haverflock ImageJ tracking userguide.
  • Alyssa Mayo (Physics '13) experiments and analysis of chimney swift flocking and calling, rock pigeon flocking in aviaries and collision avoidance by black-headed gulls.
  • Eleanor Tecosky-Feldman (research intern) experiments and analysis of chimney swift flocking and calling
  • Emma Oxford (Physics '13) co-wrote our Raven Pro supplementary userguide and helped develop our bird-mounted GPS and other sensors.
  • Anna Schall (Physics '12) worked during fall '09 to analyze online videos of crows mobbing various predators
  • Emily Cunningham (Physics '12) wrote our simulation code and took tern mobbing data in summer 2009.
  • M. Elias Tousley (Haverford Physics '11) worked on this project since its inception; his senior thesis project involved taking the swallow-raptor and tern mobbing data, writing code, doing data analysis and helping create our experimental setup.
  • Owen Glaze (a '09 graduate of Lower Merion High School) performed research in summer 2009 before attending Penn State's main campus in the fall. Owen wrote much of the image analysis code and took the swallow-raptor data with Elias.