profile-picContact James

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Room G16 Cooperage Building
North Mall Campus
University College Cork

Tel: +353 (0)21 490 4676






James recently began a postdoctoral fellowship at University College Cork, during which he will research the social behaviour of small passerines in southern Ireland. He completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge (UK) in 2014, studying maternal investment tactics in cooperative breeding systems, and has since worked at Wageningen University (The Netherlands) on the relationship between social and breeding behaviour in great tits. Prior to his PhD, James worked on field projects in Australia, Canada, and the USA as a research assistant.


Research Interests

James is a behavioural ecologist who uses a combination of theoretical, empirical, and comparative methods to answer questions around animal reproduction and sociality. His primary focus is on how the social environment influences breeding behaviour, for example whether mothers in cooperatively breeding groups should alter the number of offspring according to group size, or whether parents provision young more effectively when they are more familiar with each other. James is also interested in how sociality relates to communication, habitat selection, and foraging behaviour. At UCC, James will be investigating how group size in blue- and great tits influences their foraging and problem-solving abilities by developing new theoretical models and then testing them in the wild.



  1. Khwaja N, Preston, S. A. J., Hatchwell, B. J., Briskie, J. V., Winney, I. S., Savage, J. L. (2017). Flexibility but no coordination of visits in provisioning riflemen. Animal Behaviour, 125, 25–31.
  2. Snijders, L., Nieuwe Weme, L. E., De Goede, P., Savage, J. L., Van Oers, K. & Naguib, M. (in press). Context-dependent effects of radio transmitter attachment on a small passerine. Journal of Avian Biology.
  3. Crane, J. M. S., Savage, J. L. & Russell, A. F. 2016. Diversity and function of vocalisations in the cooperative chestnut-crowned babbler. Emu, 116, 241–253.
  4. Savage, J. L., Russell, A. F. & Johnstone, R. A. 2015. Maternal allocation in cooperative breeders: should mothers match or compensate for expected helper contributions? Animal Behaviour, 102, 189–197.
  5. Engesser, S., Crane, J. M. S., Savage, J. L., Russell, A. F. & Townsend, S. W. 2015. Experimental Evidence for Phonemic Contrasts in a Nonhuman Vocal System. PLOS Biology, 13, e1002171.
  6. Nomano, F. Y., Browning, L. E., Savage, J. L., Rollins, L. A., Griffith, S. C. & Russell, A. F. 2015. Unrelated helpers neither signal contributions nor suffer retribution in chestnut-crowed babblers. Behavioral Ecology, 26, 986–995.
  7. Savage, J. L., Russell, A. F. & Johnstone, R. A. 2013a. Intra-group relatedness affects parental and helper investment rules in offspring care. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 67, 1855–1865.
  8. Savage, J. L., Russell, A. F. & Johnstone, R. A. 2013b. Maternal costs in offspring production affect investment rules in joint rearing. Behavioral Ecology, 24, 750–758.
  9. Young, C. M., Browning, L. E., Savage, J. L., Griffith, S. C. & Russell, A. F. 2013. No evidence for deception over allocation to brood care in a cooperative bird. Behavioral Ecology, 24, 70–81.
  10. Rollins, L. A., Browning, L. E., Holleley, C. E., Savage, J. L., Russell, A. F. & Griffith, S. C. 2012. Building genetic networks using relatedness information: a novel approach for the estimation of dispersal and characterization of group structure in social animals. Molecular Ecology, 21, 1727–1740.
  11. Browning, L. E., Young, C. M., Savage, J. L., Russell, D. J. F., Barclay, H., Griffith, S. C. & Russell, A. F. 2012. Carer provisioning rules in an obligate cooperative breeder: Prey type, size and delivery rate. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 66, 1639–1649.


Outreach Activities

James is the course designer and primary instructor for “Introduction to Animal Behaviour” on the edX platform. This Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) first ran in summer 2016 and attracted over 12,000 students from 164 countries. A self-paced version of the course is currently being developed to further increase accessibility.