Dr David Pritchard

Postgraduate Student

Harold Mitchell PhD Office
tel. 01334 463371


I am PhD student supervised by Dr Sue Healy, and funded by a PhD Apprenticeship from the School of Biology.


My current research focuses on the learning of locations by birds, and how this relates to their ecological use of space. For all mobile organisms remembering space is crucial to success and survival, but differences in ecology may lead to the optimal information or mechanisms for location learning differing between species. The study of this interaction between spatial cognition and spatial ecology requires the in depth study of spatial information and cognitive mechanisms used by a range of species in different ecologies. An extensive literature has been built up studying the landmark use of food storing birds and rodents, as well as pollinating and homing insects.

An aim of my research is to extend this literature through the study of wild Rufous Hummingbirds in the Canadian Rockies, in collaboration with Dr Andy Hurly of the University of Lethbridge. Over the past 20 years, these pollinating birds have been shown to possess a remarkable spatial memory (reviewed in Healy and Hurly 2005) and preferentially encode flower location in terms of external landmarks rather than the visual memory of the flower itself (Hurly et al. 2010). Using field experiments, I intend to investigate both how the hummingbirds learn flower locations, as well as what it is that is learned, in terms of both the landmarks themselves and the information the birds extract from them.




Pritchard, DJ, Hurly, TA, Tello-Ramos, MC & Healy, SD 2016, 'Why study cognition in the wild (and how to test it)?' Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, vol 105, no. 1, pp. 41-55. DOI: 10.1002/jeab.195
Pritchard, DJ, Scott, RD, Healy, SD & Hurly, AT 2016, 'Wild rufous hummingbirds use local landmarks to return to rewarded locations' Behavioural Processes, vol 122, pp. 59-66. DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2015.11.004
Pritchard, DJ, Hurly, TA & Healy, SD 2015, 'Effects of landmark distance and stability on accuracy of reward relocation' Animal Cognition, vol 18, no. 6, pp. 1285-1297. DOI: 10.1007/s10071-015-0896-7
Hornsby, MAW, Hurly, TA, Hamilton, CE, Pritchard, DJ & Healy, SD 2014, 'Wild, free-living rufous hummingbirds do not use geometric cues in a spatial task' Behavioural Processes, vol 108, pp. 138-141. DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2014.10.003
Dr David Pritchard Harold Mitchell Building
University of St Andrews
St Andrews
KY16 9TH

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