the most perfect thing

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Tim Birkhead is a professor of behaviour and evolution at the University of Sheffield. His research on promiscuity and sperm competition in birds, which has taken him to Canadian High Arctic, Labrador, California, Australia, Africa and Europe, helped to re-shape our understanding of bird mating systems. Tim was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2004.

Tim has served on the management committee of the Darwin Correspondence Project; he has been president of both the International Society for Behavioural Ecology and the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

In 1992 he initiated the on-going biennial Biology of Spermatozoa (BoS) meetings in 1992 which he organised until 2015 when he handed over to a steering group (see BoS website).

TRB + David Attenborough and E-bird egg

Tim holding David Attenborough’s elephant bird egg – largest egg, and the largest single cell, ever. The elephant bird of Madagascar is, sadly, extinct.

Tim’s undergraduate teaching, for which he has several awards, includes courses in animal behaviour and the history and philosophy of science. As well as a passion for research, and teaching (and hating administration with a passion), Tim is committed to the public understanding of science. He has given numerous talks to non-scientists at book festivals, the Royal Institution, at Café Scientifique and elsewhere.  He has written for New Scientist, BBC Wildlife, Natural History magazine and the Independent and for seven years had a regular column in the Times Higher Education.

Together with Jeremy Mynott, John Fanshaw and Mark Cocker, Tim is the founder of ‘New Networks for Nature’ whose annual festival promotes conservation through literature, art, music and science.

Click on book for more detail:

.                                                bird sense cover ten thousand birds cover wisdom cover the red canary cover

Since 1972 Tim has maintained a long-term study of guillemots on Skomer Island, Wales which is where he did his D.Phil. He has kept that study going because he is committed to the conservation of guillemots and also because their biology is so extraordinary. Tim was voted 20th out of 50 in the BBC-Wildlife’s, Wildlife Power List of UK Conservationists in 2015. The essential, but relatively modest funding for that long term study provided by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) was cut by National Resources Wales (NRW) when they took over in 2013. This could have been the end of the study, but crowdsourcing came to the rescue and thanks to the generosity of those who contributed the study is secure for the next few years. The guillemot’s beautiful and unusually shaped egg was what inspired The Most Perfect Thing.

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Tim has written or edited 13 books and his popular science books have gained widespread recognition: The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Ornithology was awarded the McColvin medal for best reference book (1991); The Red Canary (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2003) was awarded the Consul Cremer Prize. His book The Wisdom of Birds (2008) won ‘bird book of the year’ from the British Trust for Ornithology and British Birds. Bird Sense (Bloomsbury 2012) was short-listed for the Royal Society Winton Prize for popular science writing, and Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin (Princeton 2014), written with Jo Wimpenny and Bob Montgomerie was described by the science journal Nature as ‘compulsively readable’, and won the PROSE Award (American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence) for the best book in 2014 in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology category; CHOICE award (magazine of the American Library Association) list of Outstanding Academic Titles, 2014 in Zoology, and was Runner-up for BB/BTO Best Bird Book of 2014.

Tim is married and has three (fledged) children and a dog, enjoys walking, playing guitar and painting in his spare time. His proudest moment? Playing 1970s rock with the departmental band at the undergraduate ball in 2014.

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