College of Sciences staff

Associate Professor Phil Battley staff profile picture

Contact details +64 (06) 356 9099  ext. 84838

Associate Professor Phil Battley

Associate Professor

Institute of Agriculture and Environment

I work principally on the biology of migratory shorebirds, particularly those that make huge trans-hemispheric journeys. Following an MSc looking at the ecology of shorebirds at the end of Farewell Spit, the long sandspit at the top of New Zealand's South Island, I moved to Australia.  My PhD work was on the ecophysiology and behaviour of migrating Great Knots at Broome, NW Australia, though I also sampled knots caught upon arrival from migration at the mouth of the Yangtze River, China. Back in New Zealand my research has focused on national and international movements of individual shorebirds, the timing of migration, and plumage colouration. I do have broader interests in ornithology, however, and students have worked on a range of species and topics including Kereru, Rockhopper Penguins and polychaete worms.

I am a member of the National Oiled Wildlife Response Team, and on the editorial board for Ibis, the journal of the British Ornithologists' Union, and The Stilt (Australasian Wader Studies Group).

I am interested in ornithology in general, but specifically in bird migration, particularly shorebirds along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. This work involves remote tracking of Bar-tailed Godwits and Red Knots from New Zealand, and investigating the molecular basis to godwit migration timing in a Marsden-funded project with Dr Andrew Fidler (Cawthron Inst.).

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Professional

Contact details

  • Ph: +64 6 356 9099 ext 84838
    Location: 1.10, AgHort A
    Campus: Manawatu

Qualifications

  • BSc (Zoology) - Massey University (1992)
  • MSc (Hons), Zoology - Massey University (1996)
  • PhD, Avian ecology - Griffith University, Brisbane (2002)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

Long-distance bird migration

Remote tracking of migrants

Avian moult

Avian body composition

Intertidal ecology

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Animal Behaviour (060801): Animal Structure and Function (060807): Behavioural Ecology (060201): Biological Sciences (060000): Ecology (060200): Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology) (060205): Vertebrate Biology (060809): Zoology (060800)

Keywords

Avian ecology

Moult

Remote tracking

Foraging ecology

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 3 8

Current Projects

Project Title: The genetics and epigenetics of bird migration timing

The epic migrations of birds toward distant breeding grounds in anticipation of seasonally-available resources reveal an ability to accurately `tell time┬┐. Moreover, individuals may migrate on consistently different dates, indicating the existence of sensitive, individually-tuned timing mechanisms. This is particularly well-characterised in bar-tailed godwits, long-distance migrant shorebirds that travel from New Zealand to breed in Alaska. Individuals embark on northward migration across 30 days but, remarkably, each bird typically leaves in the same week annually with some birds leaving within just a day or two year after year. We hypothesise that these behavioural differences reflect individual variation in responses to photoperiod changes, arising in part from variation in genes involved in the circadian core oscillator (CCO). We will investigate genetic and epigenetic (DNA methylation) variation in candidate genes central to the CCO (BMAL1, CLOCK) or its output (AANAT) and in a non-CCO gene that may relate to migratory propensity (ACDYAP1). We will look for associations between migration time and individual genotype/methylation at these four loci, correcting for underlying population structure using microsatellites. This work will provide insights into the mechanisms behind vertebrate photoperiodic responses as well as the ecological and evolutionary significance of genetic and epigenetic variation in natural populations.
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Date Range: 2013 - 2017

Funding Body: Marsden Fund - Full

Project Team:

Completed Projects

Project Title: My Plumage is degrading! Strategies to overcome feather wear in migratory birds.

The issue of how animals balance conflicting demands is central to the study of animal ecology and evolution. Such issues may be particularly acute for animals whose movements set limits to the time that can be spent preparing for certain activities. For birds that migrate long distances, for instance, a prebreeding moult is typically undertaken largely on the non-breeding grounds. As the longest-migrating birds are also the earliest to start migrating, they may be more constrained in their opportunities for moult than shorter-distance migrants. Ideally, the longest-distance migrants might invest in stronger feathers that can resist the wear and tear incurred over up to four months and 17,000 km of travel. But their earlier departure on migration may in fact result in the opposite. We attempted to tease apart how the apparent colour of the breeding plumage varies between species and populations of shorebirds, in relation to the investment of melanins in the feathers and the amount of wear the feather has experienced. We collected feathers from five species of migratory shorebird along two major flyways (New Zealand, Australia, China and Alaska; The Netherlands, Germany and Norway), measured aspects of the plumage colouration via spectrometry and the feather structure by microscopy, and studied the moult and migration strategies of the Bar-tailed Godwits that `winter┬┐ in New Zealand..
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Date Range: 2008 - 2010

Funding Body: Marsden Fund - Fast Start

Project Team:

Research Outputs

Journal

Horikoshi, C., Battley, PF., Seaton, R., & Minot, EO. (2017). Winter habitat use of New Zealand falcons (Falco novaeseelandiae ferox) in an intensively managed pine plantation, central north Island, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology. 41(2)
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Battley, PF., & Conklin, JR. (2017). Geolocator wetness data accurately detect periods of migratory flight in two species of shorebird. Wader Study. 124(2), 112-119
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Conklin, JR., Senner, NR., Battley, PF., & Piersma, T. (2017). Extreme migration and the individual quality spectrum. Journal of Avian Biology. 48(1), 19-36
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Choi, CY., Battley, PF., Potter, MA., Ma, Z., Melville, DS., & Sukkaewmanee, P. (2017). How migratory shorebirds selectively exploit prey at a staging site dominated by a single prey species. Auk. 134(1), 76-91
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P., Potter, M.
Morrison, KW., Armstrong, DP., Battley, PF., Jamieson, SE., & Thompson, DR. (2017). Predation by New Zealand sea lions and Brown Skuas is causing the continued decline of an Eastern Rockhopper Penguin colony on Campbell Island. Polar Biology. 40(4), 735-751
[Journal article]Authored by: Armstrong, D., Battley, P.
Bulla, M., Valcu, M., Dokter, AM., Dondua, AG., Kosztolányi, A., Rutten, AL., . . . Kempenaers, B. (2016). Unexpected diversity in socially synchronized rhythms of shorebirds. Nature. 540(7631), 109-113
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Morrison, KW., Morrison, NC., Buchheit, RM., Dunn, R., Battley, PF., & Thompson, DR. (2016). The canalized parental roles of a Eudyptes penguin constrain provisioning and growth of chicks during nutritional stress. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 70(4), 467-479
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Weiser, EL., Lanctot, RB., Brown, SC., Alves, JA., Battley, PF., Bentzen, R., . . . Sandercock, BK. (2015). Effects of geolocators on hatching success, return rates, breeding movements, and change in body mass in 16 species of Arctic-breeding shorebirds. Movement Ecology. 4(1)
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Choi, CY., Battley, PF., Potter, MA., Rogers, KG., & Ma, Z. (2015). The importance of Yalu Jiang coastal wetland in the north Yellow Sea to Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica and Great Knots Calidris tenuirostris during northward migration. Bird Conservation International. 25(1), 53-70
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P., Potter, M.
Choi, CY., Battley, PF., Potter, MA., Ma, Z., & Liu, W. (2014). Factors Affecting the Distribution Patterns of Benthic Invertebrates at a Major Shorebird Staging Site in the Yellow Sea, China. Wetlands. 34(6), 1085-1096
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P., Potter, M.
Conklin, JR., Battley, PF., & Potter, MA. (2013). Absolute Consistency: Individual versus Population Variation in Annual-Cycle Schedules of a Long-Distance Migrant Bird. PLoS ONE. 8(1)
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P., Potter, M.
Cousins, RA., Battley, PF., Gartrell, BD., & Powlesland, RG. (2012). Impact injuries and probability of survival in a large semiurban endemic pigeon in new zealand, hemiphaga novaeseelandiae. Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 48(3), 567-574
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P., Gartrell, B.
Battley, PF., Warnock, N., Tibbitts, TL., Gill, RE., Piersma, T., Hassell, CJ., . . . Riegen, AC. (2012). Contrasting extreme long-distance migration patterns in bar-tailed godwits Limosa lapponica. Journal of Avian Biology. 43(1), 21-32
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P., Gartrell, B.
Ward, JM., Gartrell, BD., Conklin, JR., & Battley, PF. (2011). Midazolam as an adjunctive therapy for capture myopathy in bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica baueri) with prognostic indicators. Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 47(4), 925-935
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P., Gartrell, B.
Conklin, JR., & Battley, PF. (2011). Impacts of wind on individual migration schedules of New Zealand bar-tailed godwits. Behavioral Ecology. 22(4), 854-861
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Conklin, JR., Battley, PF., Potter, MA., & Ruthrauff, DR. (2011). Geographic variation in morphology of Alaska-breeding Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica) is not maintained on their nonbreeding grounds in New Zealand. Auk. 128(2), 363-373
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P., Potter, M.
Conklin, JR., Battley, PF., Potter, MA., & Fox, JW. (2010). Breeding latitude drives individual schedules in a trans-hemispheric migrant bird.. Nature communications. 1, 67
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P., Potter, M.
Gill, RE., Tibbitts, TL., Douglas, DC., Handel, CM., Mulcahy, DM., Gottschalck, JC., . . . Piersma, T. (2009). Extreme endurance flights by landbirds crossing the Pacific Ocean: Ecological corridor rather than barrier?. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 276(1656), 447-457
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Piersma, T., Brugge, M., Spaans, B., & Battley, PF. (2008). Endogenous circannual rhythmicity in body mass, molt, and plumage of great knots (Calidris tenuirostris). Auk. 125(1), 140-148
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Battley, PF. (2006). Consistent annual schedules in a migratory shorebird. Biology Letters. 2(4), 517-520
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Rogers, DI., Battley, PF., Piersma, T., Van Gils, JA., & Rogers, KG. (2006). High-tide habitat choice: insights from modelling roost selection by shorebirds around a tropical bay. Animal Behaviour. 72(3), 563-575
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Van Gils, JA., Piersma, T., Dekinga, A., & Battley, PF. (2006). Modelling phenotypic flexibility: An optimality analysis of gizzard size in Red Knots Calidris canutus. Ardea. 94(3), 409-420
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Moore, SJ., Battley, PF., Henderson, IM., & Webb, CJ. (2006). The diet of brown teal (Anas chlorotis). New Zealand Journal of Ecology. 30(3), 397-403
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P., Henderson, I.
Battley, PF., Rogers, DI., Van Gils, JA., Piersma, T., Hassell, CJ., Boyle, A., . . . Yang, HY. (2005). How do red knots Calidris canutus leave Northwest Australia in May and reach the breeding grounds in June? Predictions of stopover times, fuelling rates and prey quality in the Yellow Sea. Journal of Avian Biology. 36(6), 494-500
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Van Gils, JA., Battley, PF., Piersma, T., & Drent, R. (2005). Reinterpretation of gizzard sizes of red knots world-wide emphasises overriding importance of prey quality at migratory stopover sites. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 272(1581), 2609-2618
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Battley, PF., Piersma, T., Rogers, DI., Dekinga, A., Spaans, B., & Van Gils, JA. (2004). Do body condition and plumage during fuelling predict northwards departure dates of Great Knots Calidris tenuirostris from north-west Australia?. Ibis. 146(1), 46-60
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Battley, PF., Poot, M., Wiersma, P., Gordon, C., Ntiamoa-Baidu, Y., & Piersma, T. (2003). Social foraging by waterbirds in shallow coastal lagoons in Ghana. Waterbirds. 26(1), 26-34
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.
Battley, PF., Piersma, T., Dietz, MW., Tang, S., Dekinga, A., & Hulsman, K. (2000). Empirical evidence for differential organ reductions during trans-oceanic bird flight. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 267(1439), 191-195
[Journal article]Authored by: Battley, P.

Conference

Sievwright, KA., Battley, PF., Morgan, KJ., & McConnell, H. (2014, May). Post-release survival and productivity of oiled little blue penguins rehabilitated after the C/V Rena oil spill. Presented at Birds New Zealand Conference 2014. Palmerston Northg.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Battley, P., Morgan, K.
Choi, CY., Battley, PF., Potter, MA., & Ma, Z. (2013, December). Shorebird species composition and numbers in the Chinese Yellow Sea on northward and southward migration. Presented at Australasian Ornithological Congress. Unitec, Auckland.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Battley, P., Potter, M.
McConnell, H., Morgan, K., Gartrell, B., Dowding, J., Stephenson, B., & Battley, P. (2012). Pre-emptive capture as a response option- A case study of New Zealand dotterels during the Rena oil spill. In 11th International Effects of Oil on Wildlife Conference: Abstracts and Short Papers(pp. 133 - 133). , 11th International Effects of Oil on Wildlife Conference: Global Impacts: Many Species, One Response: Global Impacts: Many Species, One Response United States: Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research Inc
[Conference Abstract]Authored by: Battley, P., Gartrell, B., Morgan, K.
McConnell, H., Morgan, K., Gartrell, B., Dowding, J., Stephenson, B., & Battley, P. (2012, January). Pre-emptive capture as a response option- A case study of New Zealand dotterels during the Rena Oil Spill. Presented at 11th International Effects of Oil on Wildlife Conference: Global Impacts: Many Species, One Response. New Orleans, LA, United States.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Battley, P., Gartrell, B., Morgan, K.
Battley, PF., Gill, RE., Tibbitts, L., Mulcahy, D., Gartrell, BD., & Warnock, N.(2007). Technology, communication and knowledge: advancing understanding of the world's greatest migrant, the bar-tailed godwit. Paper presented at the meeting of Australasian Shorebird Conference. Newcastle University, New South Wales, Australia
[Conference Paper]Authored by: Battley, P., Gartrell, B.

Consultancy and Languages

Languages

  • English
    Last used: Today
    Spoken ability: Excellent
    Written ability: Excellent

Supervision and Teaching

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Supervisor 1 4
CoSupervisor 1 1

Teaching

I mainly teach about vertebrate diversity, structure and evolution, especially through the 2nd-year Vertebrate Zoology course that I teach all of.

199212 Vertebrate Zoology (coordinator)

199330 Ornithology (coordinator)

199101 Biology of Animals  (coordinator)

199206 Fauna of New Zealand

194345 Comparative Physiology

Current Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

CoSupervisor of:

  • Chris Muller - PhD
    Population ecology, foraging behaviour and impacts of tourism on yellow-eyed penguins on the subantarctic Auckland Islands

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • 2017 - Chifuyu Horikoshi - PhD
    Non-breeding ecology of New Zealand falcon (Falco novaeseelandiae) in a pine plantation forest
  • 2015 - Kyle William Morrison - PhD
    Factors affecting the population dynamics of Eastern Rockhopper Penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome filholi) on Campbell Island, New Zealand
  • 2015 - Chi Yeung Choi - PhD
    The Northward Migration Stopover Ecology of Bar-Tailed Godwits and Great Knots in the Yalu Jiang Estuary National Nature Reserve, China
  • 2012 - Jesse Ray Conklin - PhD
    Extreme migration and the annual cycle: Individual strategies in New Zealand Bar-tailed Godwits

CoSupervisor of:

  • 2016 - Emma Maria Williams - PhD
    Developing monitoring methods for cryptic species: A case study of the Australasian bittern/ Botaurus poiciloptilus

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