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 of 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 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 and in 2020 his book on Bird Senses was published by Pelagic 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. A strong commitment to wildlife conservation at a local level is indicated by Graham being a Trustee of the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust for more than 20 years, serving seven years as Chair.


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. 2021. Avian Vision. In Sturkie’s Avian Physiology, 7th Edition. Eds. Scanes, C. G. and Dridi, S. Elsevier, in press.

Martin, G. R. 2020. Bird Senses: How and What Birds See, Hear, Smell, Taste, and Feel. Pelagic Publishing, Exeter.

Field, R., Crawford, R., Enever, R., Lindowski, T. Martin, G.R., Morkunas, R., Rouxel, Y., and Oppel, S. 2019. High contrast panels and lights do not reduce bycatch in Baltic Sea gillnet fisheries. Global Ecology and Conservation, 18 e00602.

Cantlay, J C., Portugal, S.J and Martin, G. R. 2019 Visual fields and foraging ecology of Blacksmith Lapwings Vanellus armatus. Ibis doi 10.1111/ibi.12725.

Martin, G. R. 2018. “The Senses” In Ornithology: Foundation, Critique, and Application. Ed. Morrison, M. L., A. D. Rodewald, G. Voelker, M. R. Colon, and J. F. Prather. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Mitkus, M., Potier, S., Martin, G. R., Duriez, O., Kelber, A. 2018. Raptor Vision. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Neuroscience. Ed. S. Murray Sherman. Oxford University Press, New York. DOI:10.1093/acrefore/9780190264086.013.232.

Martin, G. R. 2017 What Drives Bird Vision? Bill Control and Predator Detection Overshadow Flight. Frontiers in Neuroscience 11, 619.

Potier, S., Bonadonna, F., Martin, G. R., Isard, P.-F., Dulaurent, T., Mentek, M., and Duriez, O. 2017 Visual field configuration of two species of Falconidae with different foraging ecologies. Ibis 159, doi: 10.1111/ibi.12528.

Portugal, S.J. Murn, C.P. and Martin, G.R. 2017. White-headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis shows visual field characteristics of hunting raptors Ibis 159, 463–466, doi: 10.1111/ibi.12448

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

Potier, S., Bonadonna, F., Kelber, A., Martin, G.R., Isard, P-F., Dulaurent, 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

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