Professor Graham Martin BSc, PhD, DSc

Professor Graham Martin

School of Biosciences
Emeritus Professor, Avian Sensory Science

Contact details

Centre for Ornithology
School of Biosciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Professor Graham Martin is an Ornithologist with an international reputation built upon his research into the sensory worlds of birds. In recent years he has used his expertise to focus on problems concerned with the functions vision, especially binocular vision, in foraging behaviour, and in understanding why some bird species are particularly vulnerable to collisions with human artefacts such as wind turbines, power lines and fishing nets.


BSc Human and Physical Sciences, University of Surrey
PhD Psychology, University of Exeter
DSc Biology, University of Birmingham


Professor Graham Martin did graduate work at the University of Exeter into the sensory bases of nocturnal activity in owls. He followed this with Post-Doctoral work at The University of Sussex on the function of coloured oil droplets in the colour vision of pigeons. He took up his first post at the University of Birmingham in 1976 as a lecturer in Biology based in the then Department of Extramural Studies and the then Department of Zoology and Comparative Physiology. He became head of the School of Continuing Studies and also held a central University post for regional Development. However, he always based his research in Biosciences.

He moved full time to the School of Biosciences in 2002 where he established the Centre for Ornithology and set up the MSc programme in Ornithology, the only such programme in Europe. His research has been into the senses of birds, mainly their vision and hearing, and has always attempted to understand these from the perspective of understanding how sensory information helps birds to carry out different tasks in different environments. He has published papers on more than 60 species, from Albatrosses and Penguins, to Spoonbills and Kiwi. He has collaborated and travelled widely and pondered diverse sensory challenges that birds face in the conduct of different tasks in different habitats, from mudflats and murky waters, to forests, deserts and caves. In recent years he has focused on how understanding bird senses can help to reduce the very high levels of bird deaths that are caused by human artefacts; particularly, wind turbines, power lines, and gill nets. In early 2017 his book on The Sensory Ecology of Birds was published by Oxford University Press.

In 2010 he delivered a Plenary lecture about his work in Avian Sensory Ecology to the International Ornithological Congress in Brazil, just before taking retirement and being awarded the title of Emeritus Professor. He continues to research avian senses. He has been active in ornithology having edited the journal Bird Study on behalf of the British Trust for Ornithology for six years, he was Vice-President of the British Ornithologist’s Union, Council member of the European Ornithologists’ Union, and chaired the Scientific Programme Committee for the EOU2015 conference held in Spain. 


Research Theme within School of Biosciences: Organisms and Environment

Sensory Ecology of birds, especially the sensory bases of foraging and the reasons why birds are prone to collisions with human artifacts.

Other activities

Chair of the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust.


Selected publications:

Martin, G.R. 2017. The Sensory Ecology of Birds, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Portugal, S.J. Murn, C.P. and Martin, G.R. 2017. White-headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis shows visual field characteristics of hunting raptors Ibis doi: 10.1111/ibi.12448

Potier, S., Bonadonna, F., Kelber, A., Martin, G.R., Isard, P-F., Dulauren, T. and Duriez, O. 2016 Visual abilities in two raptors with different ecology. Journal of Experimental Biology 219, 2639-2649. doi:10.1242/jeb.142083

Martin, G.R. and Wanless, S. 2015. The visual fields of Common Guillemots Uria aalge and Atlantic Puffins Fratercula arctica; Foraging, vigilance and collision vulnerability. Ibis, 157, 798-807.

Martin, G.R. and Crawford, R. 2015. Reducing bycatch in gillnets: A sensory ecology perspective. Global Ecology and Conservation, 3, 28-50.

Martin, G.R. 2014. The subtlety of simple eyes:  the tuning of visual fields to perceptual challenges in birds. Phil Trans. Roy. Soc. B, 369,   doi: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0040

Martin, G. R. 2012. Through Birds' Eyes: insights into avian sensory ecology. J. Ornithol.  153 (Suppl. 1) S23- S48. DOI 10.1007/s10336-011-0771-5

Martin, G.R., Portugal, S. J. & Murn, C. P.  2012.  Visual fields, foraging and collision vulnerability in Gyps vultures Ibis 154: 626-631.

Troscianko, J., von Bayern, A.M.P., Chappell, J., Rutz, C. and Martin, G.R. 2012. Extreme binocular vision and a straight bill facilitate tool use in New Caledonian crows. Nature Communications, DOI 10.1038/ncomms2111.

Demery ZP, Chappell J, Martin GR (2011) Vision, touch and object manipulation in Senegal parrots Poicephalus senegalus. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0374.

Martin GR (2011) Understanding bird collisions with man-made objects: a sensory ecology approach. Ibis 153:239-254

Martin GR, Portugal SJ (2011) Differences in foraging ecology determine variation in visual field in ibises and spoonbills (Threskiornithidae). Ibis 153:662-671

Martin GR, Shaw JM (2010) Bird collisions with power lines: Failing to see the way ahead? Biological Conservation 143:2695-2702

Martin GR, Piersma T (2009) Vision and touch in relation to foraging and predator detection: insighful contrasts between a plover and a sandpiper. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B 276:437-445

Martin GR (2009) What is binocular vision for? A birds' eye view. Journal of Vision 9:1-19

Martin GR (2007) Visual fields and their functions in birds. Journal of Ornithology 148 (Suppl 2):547-562

Martin GR, Wilson KJ, Wild MJ, Parsons S, Kubke MF, Corfield J (2007) Kiwi Forego Vision in the Guidance of their Nocturnal Activities. PLoSOne 2(2): e198. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000198:

White CR, Day N, Butler PJ, Martin GR (2007) Vision and Foraging in Cormorants: more like Herons than Hawks? PLoSOne i2(7): e639.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000639:

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