Dr David Pritchard

Postdoctoral researcher

Harold Mitchell PhD Office
tel. 01334 463371

I am a Postdoctoral researcher in Sue Healy’s lab at the University of St Andrews, interested in what animals in the wild learn about their environment, and how they use this information to find their way around. 

I am currently working on small-scale navigation in Rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus). To forage effectively, these little birds remember individual flowers within the territory. The hummingbirds do not remember flowers in terms of their physical appearance, but instead remember the spatial location of a flower within the territory. Very little is known about how the hummingbirds remember the spatial location of a flower, the cues they use, and how this relates to navigation in other animals.

Continuing work I started during my PhD, I study how the hummingbirds use environmental information, particularly visual cues, to return to the location of a flower. Working in the Canadian Rockies over the summer, I use field experiments to tease apart what the hummingbirds have remembered about flower locations. During my postdoc, I have also started to use visual tracking software to extract and analyse flight paths, as well as modelling the potential visual information available to the birds using cutting-edge photogrammetry tools. These methods allow me to analyse the behaviour and visual cues used by hummingbirds in unprecedented detail.




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