Richard Major with a Kookaburra

Key Info

  • Section
    Terrestrial Research
    Australian Museum Research Institute

Email Dr Richard Major

Research interests:

  • Effects of urbanization on birds
  • Effects of habitat fragmentation on animals, particularly birds
  • Breeding ecology of birds
  • Threatened species conservation.

Current projects:

  • Conservation genetics of the Lord Howe Woodhen
  • Management of the Noisy Miner key threatening process
  • Invasion pathways of the Common (Indian) Myna
  • Conservation genetics of the Lord Howe Woodhen
  • Ecology of the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
  • Ecology of urban birds
  • Effects of habitat fragmentation on Australian robins
  • Conservation ecology of the White-fronted Chat


  • Callaghan C.T., Major R.E., Wilshire J.H., Martin J.M., Kingsford R.T., Cornwell W.K. (2019) Generalists are the most urban-tolerant birds: a phylogenetically controlled analysis of ecological and life history traits using a novel continuous measure of bird responses to urbanization. Oikos DOI: 10.1111/oik.06158
  • Ewart, K. M., Griffin, A.S., Johnson, R. N., Kark, S., Magory Cohen, T., Lo, N. and Major, R.E. (2019). Two speed invasion: assisted and intrinsic dispersal of common mynas over 150 years of colonization. Journal of Biogeography 46: 45-57.
  • Morales, H. E., Pavlova. A., Amos, N., Major, R.E., Kilian A., Greening, C. and Sunnucks, P. (2018). Concordant divergence of mitogenomes and a mitonuclear gene cluster in bird lineages inhabiting different climates. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2, 1258-1267.
  • Vickers, J. A. T., R. E. Major, W. E. Boles, and K. French. (2018). Use of alula shape for ageing Noisy Miners Manorina melanocephala: a critical evaluation. Corella 42, 50‑54.
  • Davitt, G., K. Maute, R. E. Major, P. G. McDonald, and M. Maron. (2018). Short-term response of a declining woodland bird assemblage to the removal of a despotic competitor. Ecology and Evolution 8, 4771-4780.
  • Chard, M., K. French, J. Martin, and R. E. Major. (2018). Rain drives foraging decisions of an urban exploiter. Plos One 13, 1-14
  • Callaghan, C. T., J. M. Martin, R. E. Major, and R. T. Kingsford. (2018). Avian monitoring – comparing structured and unstructured citizen science. Wildlife Research, 45, 176-184.
  • Callaghan, C., Major, R.E., M. Lyons, J. Martin, and R. Kingsford. (2018). The effects of local and landscape habitat attributes on bird diversity in urban greenspaces. Ecosphere 9, 1-17.
  • Morales, H.E., Pavlova, A., Sunnucks, P., Major, R.E., Amos, N., Joseph, L. et al. (2017). Neutral and selective drivers of colour evolution in a widespread Australian passerine. Journal of Biogeography, 44, 522-536.
  • Coogan, S.C.P., Machovsky-Capuska, G.E., Senior, A.M., Martin, J.M., Major, R.E. and Raubenheim, D. (2017). Macronutrient selection of free-ranging urban Australian white ibis (Threskiornis moluccus). Behavioral Ecology, 28, 1021-1029.
  • Eldridge, M. D. B., Divljan, A., Frankham, G. J., Ingleby, S., Johnson, R. N., King, A.G., Major, R. E., Parnaby, H.E., and Tsang, L. (2017). "The Australian Museum Lord Howe Island Expedition 2017—birds and mammals." Technical Reports of the Australian Museum, Online 26: 25-43
  • Houston, W., Aspden, W., Elder, R., Black, R., Neaves, L., King, A. and Major, R.E. (2017). Restricted gene flow in the endangered Capricorn Yellow Chat Epthianura crocea macgregori: Consequences for conservation management. Bird Conservation International, doi:10.1017/S0959270917000284: 1-10
  • Callaghan, C.T., Slater, M., Major, R.E., Morrison, M.L., Martin, J.M., and Kingsford, R.T. (2017). "Travelling birds generate eco-travellers: The economic potential of vagrant birdwatching." Human Dimensions of Wildlife: 23, 71-82
  • Chard, M., Martin, J., French, K. & Major, R.E. (2017). Rainfall events drive foraging choices by an urban coloniser. Urban Ecosystems, 20, 1285-1290
  • Davis, A., Major, R.E., Taylor, C.E. and Martin, J.M. (2017). Novel tracking and reporting methods for studying large birds in urban landscapes. Wildlife Biology, doi: 10.2981/wlb.00307., 1-7
  • Callaghan, C.T., Lyons, M.B., Martin, J.M., Major, R.E. and Kingsford, R.T. (2017). Assessing the reliability of avian biodiversity measures of urban greenspaces using eBird citizen science data. Avian Conservation and Ecology 12, 1-31
  • Davis, A., Major, R.E., and Taylor, C.E. (2016) Do trees flower longer in the city? A comparison of flowering Eucalyptus trees in streets, remnants and continuous forest and their association with nectarivorous birds. Urban Ecosystems 19: 735-747
  • Thomson, J.R., Maron, M., Grey, M.J., Catterall, C.P., Major, R.E., Oliver, D.L., Clarke, M.F., Loyn, R.H., Davidson, I., Ingwersen, D., Robinson, D., Kutt, A., MacDonald, M.A., and Mac Nally, R. (2015) Avifaunal disarray: quantifying models of the occurrence and ecological effects of a despotic bird species. Diversity and Distributions 21, 451-464.
  • Davis, A., Major, R.E., and Taylor, C.E. (2015) The association between nectar availability and nectarivore density in urban and natural environments. Urban Ecosystems, 18, 503-515
  • Lindsay, K.J., Allen, A.P., and Major, R.E. (2015) Can spatial and temporal food variability explain the winter foraging movements of a saltmarsh insectivore? Austral Ecology, 40, 160-169
  • Major, R.E., Ashcroft, M.B., and Davis, A. (2014) Potential benefits of nest caging for a threatened shrub-nesting bird. Wildlife Research 41, 598–605
  • Major, R.E., Johnson, R.N., King, A.G., Cooke, G.M., and Sladek, J.L.T. (2014) Genetic isolation of endangered bird populations inhabiting saltmarsh remnants surrounded by intensive urbanisation. Animal Conservation 17, 419-429.
  • Davis, A., Major, R.E., and Taylor, C.E. (2014) Distribution of tree-hollows and hollow preferences by parrots in an urban landscape. Emu 114, 295-303
  • Franklin, M.J.M., Morris, E. C., and Major, R.E. (2014) Relationships between time since fire and honeyeater abundance in montane heathland. Emu 114, 61-68
  • Maron, M., Grey, M.J., Catterall, C.P., Major, R.E., Oliver, D.L., Clarke, M.F., Loyn, R.H., Mac Nally, R., Davidson, I., and Thomson, J.R. (2013) Avifaunal disarray due to a single despotic species. Diversity and Distributions 19, 1468-1479.
  • Davis A., Major R. E. & Taylor C. E. (2013) Housing shortages in urban regions: aggressive interactions at tree hollows in forest remnants. PLoS ONE 8, 1-9.
  • Ashcroft, M.B., Major, R.E. (2013). The importance of matrix permeability and quantity of core habitat for persistence of a threatened saltmarsh bird. Austral Ecology, 38, 326-337
  • Major, R.E., (2013). Latitudinal and insular variation in morphology of a small Australian passerine – consequences for dispersal distance and conservation. Australian Journal of Zoology. 60, 210–218
  • Cooke G. M., King A. G., Boles W., Johnson R. N. & Major R. E. (2012) Rapid characterization of mitochondrial genome rearrangements in four Australian robins and one Australian honeyeater using next-generation sequencing technology. Journal of Heredity 103, 882-7.
  • Martin J., French K. & Major R. (2012) Behavioural adaptation of a bird from transient wetland specialist to an urban resident. Plos One 7, 1-8
  • Major R. E. & Sladek J. L. T. (2012) Is an island reserve enough? The decline and fall of the White-fronted Chat (Aves: Meliphagidae) in southern Sydney. Proc. Linn. Soc. NSW 134, B205-14.
  • King A. G., Cooke G. M., Johnson R. N. & Major R. E. (2012) Development and multiplex genotyping of eighteen novel microsatellite markers for a threatened saltmarsh bird Epthianura albifrons (Meliphagidae). Conservation Genetics Resources 4, 893-6.
  • Davis A., Taylor C. E. & Major R. E. (2012) Seasonal abundance and habitat use of Australian parrots in an urbanised landscape. Landscape and Urban Planning 106, 191-8.
  • Martin J, French K, Ross G, Major R.E. (2011) Foraging distances and habitat preferences of a recent urban coloniser: the Australian white ibis. Landscape and Urban Planning 102, 65-72
  • Lowe K., Taylor C. E. and Major R. E. (2011) Do common mynas significantly compete with native birds in urban environments? Journal of Ornithology.
  • Davis A., Taylor C. E. and Major R. E. (2011) Do fire and rainfall drive spatial and temporal population shifts in parrots? A case study using urban parrot populations. Landscape and Urban Planning.
  • Jenner, B., French, K., Oxenham, K. and Major, R.E. (2011). Population decline of the White-fronted Chat (Epthianura albifrons) in New South Wales, Australia. Emu 111: 84-91
  • Hsu, T., French, K., and Major, R.E. (2010). Avian assemblages in eucalypt forests, plantations and pastures in northern NSW, Australia. Forest Ecology and Management: 260: 1036-46.
  • Martin, J.M., French, K., and Major, R.E. (2010). Population and breeding trends of an urban coloniser: the Australian white ibis. Wildlife Research: 37: 230-239
  • Major, R.E. (2010). Fragmentation responses of birds, insects, spiders and genes – diverse lessons for woodland conservation pp 199-208. In: Temperate Woodland Conservation and Management. Eds: D. Lindenmayer, A. Bennett and R.Hobbs. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne
  • Major R.E. (2010) Using museum collections and community surveys to monitor change in the birds of Sydney. In: The Natural History of Sydney (eds D. Lunney, P. Hutchings and D. Hochuli) pp. 234-40. Royal Zoological Society of NSW, Mosman.
  • Martin, J.M. and Major, R.E. (2010). The use of cattle ear-tags as patagial markers for large birds – a field assessment on adult and nestling Australian White Ibis. Waterbirds: 33: 264-268
  • Major, R.E. and Parsons, H. (2010). What do museum specimens tell us about the impact of urbanisation? A comparison of the recent and historic bird communities of Sydney. Emu 110: 92-103.
  • Keith, D.A., Orscheg, C., Simpson, C.C., Clarke, P.J., Hughes, L., Kennelly, S.J., Major, R.E., Soderquist, T.R. Wilson, A.L. and Bedward, M. (2009). A new approach and case study for estimating extent and rates of habitat loss for ecological communities. Biological Conservation 142: 1469-1479
  • Ashley, L.C., Major, R.E. and Taylor, C.E. (2009) Does the presence of grevilleas and eucalypts in urban gardens influence the distribution and foraging ecology of Noisy Miners? Emu 109: 135-142
  • Parsons, H., French, K. and Major, R.E. (2008). The vegetation requirements of Superb Fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus) in non-urban edge and urbanised habitats. Emu 108: 283-291
  • Martin, J.M., French, K., and Major, R.E. (2007). The pest status of Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) in urban situations and the effectiveness of egg-oil in reproductive control. Wildlife Research 34: 319–324
  • Hodgson, P., French, K., and Major, R.E. (2007). Avian movement across abrupt ecological edges: differential responses to housing density in an urban matrix.Landscape and Urban Planning 79: 266-272
  • Hodgson, P., French, K., and Major, R.E. (2006). A comparison of foraging behaviour of small, urban-sensitive insectivores in continuous woodland and woodland remnants in a suburban landscape. Wildlife Research 33: 591-603
  • Major, R.E., Gowing, G., Christie, F.J., Gray, M and Colgan, D. (2006). Variation in wolf spider (Araneae: Lycosidae) distribution and abundance in response to the size and shape of woodland fragments. Biological Conservation 132: 98-108
  • Parsons, H., Major, R.E. and French, K. (2006). Species interactions and habitat associations of birds inhabiting urban areas of Sydney, Australia. Austral Ecology 31: 217-227
  • French, K., Major, R.E. and Hely, K. (2005). Use of native and exotic garden plants by suburban nectarivorous birds. Biological Conservation 121: 545-559
  • Parsons, H. and Major, R.E. (2004). Bird interactions in Sydney gardens: some initial findings of the Birds in Backyards program. pp 211-215 in Urban Wildlife: more than meets the eye. Lunney, D. and Burgin, S. (eds). Royal Zoological Society of NSW, Mosman, NSW.
  • Parsons, H., French, K and Major, R.E. (2003). The influence of remnant bushland on the composition of suburban bird assemblages in Australia. Landscape and Urban Planning 66: 43-56
  • Major, R. E. (2003). Urban currawongs. Nature Australia 27(9): 52-59
  • Major, R.E., Christie, F.J., Gowing, G., Cassis, G. and Reid, C.A.M. (2003). The effect of habitat configuration on arboreal insects in fragmented woodlands of south-eastern Australia. Biological Conservation 113: 35-48
  • Colgan, D.J., Brown, S., Major, R.E., Christie, F.J., Gray, M. and Cassis, G. (2002). Population genetics of wolf spiders of fragmented habitat in the wheat belt of New South Wales. Molecular Ecology 11: 2295-2305
  • Major, R. E. and Gowing, G. (2001). Survival of Red-capped Robins Petroica goodenovii in woodland remnants of central western New South Wales, Australia. Wildlife Research 28: 565-571
  • Major, R. E., Christie, F.J. and Gowing G. (2001). Influence of remnant and landscape attributes on Australian woodland bird communities. Biological Conservation 102: 47-66
  • French K., and Major, R.E. (2001). The effect of an alien Acacia on ant communities in South African fynbos. Austral Ecology 26: 303-311
  • Martin, T.J., and Major R.E. (2001). Changes in wolf spider assemblages across woodland/pasture boundaries in the central wheatbelt of New South Wales, Australia. Austral Ecology 26: 264-274.
  • Macaranas, J. M., Colgan, D.J., Major, R.E., Cassis, G. and Gray, M. (2000). Species discrimination and population differentiation in ants using microsatellites. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 29: 125-136
  • Major R.E., Smith D., Cassis G., Gray M.R. and Colgan D.J. (1999). Are roadside strips important reservoirs of invertebrate diversity? A comparison of the ant and beetle faunas of roadside strips and large remnant woodlands. Australian Journal of Zoology 47: 611-624
  • Major, R.E., Christie, F.J., Gowing, G., and Ivison, T.J. (1999). Age structure and density of red-capped robin populations vary with habitat size and shape. Journal of Applied Ecology 36: 901-908
  • Major, R.E., Christie, F.J., Gowing, G., and Ivison, T.J. (1999). Elevated rates of predation on artificial nests in linear strips of habitat. Journal of Field Ornithology 70: 351-364
  • Matthews, A., Dickman, C.R., and Major, R.E. (1999). The influence of fragment size and edge on nest predation in urban bushland. Ecography 22: 349-357
  • Pyke G.H., Christy M, and Major R.E. (1996) Territoriality in honeyeaters: review the concept and evaluating available information. Australian Journal of Zoology 44: 297-317
  • Major R.E., Gowing G., and Kendal C.E. (1996) Nest predation in Australian urban environments and the role of the Pied Currawong Strepera graculina. Australian Journal of Ecology 21: 399-409
  • Major R.E., and Kendal C.E. (1996) The contribution of artificial nest experiments to our understanding of avian reproductive success: a review of methods and conclusions. Ibis 138: 298-307.
  • Gowing G., and Major R.E. (1995) The Nest Test experiment: are community involvement and good science mutually exclusive? Museum Management and Curatorship 14: 169-180
  • Major R.E., and Gowing G. (1994) An inexpensive photographic technique for identifying nest predators at active nests of birds. Wildlife Research 21: 657-66
  • Major R.E., Pyke G.H., Christy M.T., Gowing G., and Hill R.S. (1994) Can nest predation explain the timing of the breeding season and the pattern of nest dispersion of New Holland Honeyeaters? Oikos 69: 364-372
  • Major R.E. (1992) Mate guarding in a population of White-fronted Chats Ephthianura albifrons Jardine & Selby (Passeriformes: Ephthianuridae): a response to group living and a male-skewed sex ratio? Australian Journal of Zoology 40: 401-409
  • Major R.E. (1991) Breeding biology of the white-fronted chat Ephthianura albifrons in a saltmarsh near Melbourne. Emu 91: 236-249
  • Major R.E. (1991) Flocking and feeding in the white-fronted chat Ephthianura albifrons: the relationship between diet, food availability and patch selection. Australian Journal of Ecology 16: 395-407
  • Major R.E. (1991) Identification of nest predators by photography, dummy eggs and adhesive tape. Auk 108: 190 195
  • Major R.E. (1990) Stomach flushing of an insectivorous bird: an assessment of differential digestion of prey and the risk to birds. Wildlife Research 17: 647-657
  • Major R.E. (1990) The effect of human observers on the intensity of nest predation. Ibis 132: 608-612