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Rob Simmons

Rob Simmons


Rob is a British-born ecologist, conservation biologist and ornithologist specialising in behavioural and population ecology. His studies have taken him to from the UK to Canada, Sweden and Africa with his main interests being mating systems of harriers, sibling aggression in eagles, reproductive constraints in subtropical species, and sexual selection in giraffe. He has recently moved from Namibia where he was part of the Biodiversity Programme for 14 years, specializing on the conservation of endemic and wetland birds in Namibia. He now lives in Cape Town drawn there by Black Harriers, Black Eagles, whales and a stimulating research environment. His academic research interests on harrier ecology across continents resulted in the 2000 publication of his first book in the Oxford Ornithology Series: Harriers of the World: their behaviour and ecology. He is continuing that work in collaboration with Odette Curtis and Andrew Jenkins with a 6-yr study of the endemic Black Harrier in the Northern and Western Cape, re-assessing its world conservation status. He is beginning studies of climate change effects on African birds, the evolutionary interaction between plants and their pollinators and the genetics of small raptor populations. From his long term studies of threatened birds in Namibia he is currently writing his second book on Namibia's Red data birds, due for publication in early 2006. He watches Peregrines and whales from Cape Town with his wife and two daughters.
See also his homepage at http://www.fitzpatrick.uct.ac.za/docs/robert.html.

FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town
University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701  
Cape Town,    South Africa
Phone: +27 21 650 3310 Fax: +27 21 650 3295
Email: rob.simmons@uct.ac.za

   Research Interests

Evolutionary Biology
Behavioural ecology
Conservation biology of raptors and endemic southern African birds
Climate Change and African birds

Species of Interest: 
  • Southern Banded Snake-eagle
  • Black-breasted Snake-eagle
  • Brown Snake-eagle
  • Gabar Goshawk
  • Greater Kestrel
  • Egyptian Vulture
  • Verreaux's Eagle
  • Tawny Eagle
  • African Fish Eagle
  • African Marsh Harrier
  • Black Harrier
  • Northern Harrier
  • Steppe Buzzard
  • Wahlberg's Eagle


Garcia-Heras, M.-S., B. Arroyo, F. Mougeot, A. Amar, R.E. Simmons. 2016. Does timing of breeding matter less where the grass is greener? Seasonal declines in breeding performance deffer between regions in an endangered endemic raptor. Nature Conservation 15:23-45       pdf

Kruger, S.J., R.E. Simmons, and A. Amar. 2015 Anthropogenic activities influence the abandonment of Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) territories in southern Africa. Condor 117:94-107.

Oatley, G., R.E. Simmons, and J. Fuchs. 2015. A molecular phylogeny of the harriers (Circus, Accipitridae) indicate the role of long distance dispersal and migration in diversification. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2015.01.013

Simmons, R.E., H. Kolberg, R. Braby, and B. Erni. 2015. Declines in migrant shorebird populations from a winter-quarter perspective. Conservation Biology 29(3):877-887.

Collingham, Y.C., B. Huntley, R. Altwegg, P. Barnard, O.S. Beveridge, R.D. Gregory, L. Mason, H.D. Oschadleus, R.E. Simmons, S.G. Willis, and R.E. Green. 2014. Prediction of mean adult survival rates of southern African birds from demographic and ecological covariates. Ibis 156:741-754

Fuchs, J., D.P. Mindell, R.C.K. Bowie, G. Oatley and R.E. Simmons. 2014. Lack of mtDNA genetic diversity in the Black Harrier (Circus maurus), a Southern African endemic. Ibis 156:227-230.

Jenkins, J., R.E. Simmons, O. Curtis, M. Atyeo, D. Raimondo and A.R. Jenkins. 2013. The value of the Black Harrier (Circus maurus) as predictors of biodiversity in the plant-rich Cape Floral Kingdom, South Africa. Bird Conservation International 23:66-77

Goulding W., R.A. Pettifor and R.E. Simmons. 2012. High mite burdens in an island population of Cape Wagtails Motacilla capensis: release from predation pressure? Ostrich 83:85-89.

Simmons, R.E., K. Retief and D. van Beuningen. 2011. Blade runner: Jackal Buzzard Buteo rufofuscus and other birds in a wind farm environment in South Africa. Gabar 22 11-18.

Simmons, R.E. 2011. Greater Kestrel survives impact with power lines. Ostrich 82:75-76.

Simmons, R., and P. Barnard. 2011. Pied pirates: crow threat to raptors? Africa -- Birds & Birding 16(5)50-54.

Simmons, R. 2010. The big nest test. Africa -- Birds & Birding 15:15.

Simmons, R.E. 2010. The nest, eggs, and diet of the Papuan Harrier from eastern New Guinea. Journal of Raptor Research 44:1218.       pdf

Braby, J., R.J. Braby, and R.E. Simmons. 2009. Protecting Damara Terns Sterna balaenarum from recreational disturbance in the Namib Desert increases breeding density and overall success. Ostrich 80:71-75.

Simmons, R.E. 2009. Sugar daddy (Sugarbirds in the Far South). Full Circle Magazine Feb. 2009.

Simmons, R.E. 2009. African Wahlberg's Eagle and its single egg. In R. Tingay and T. Katzner (eds.), The eagle watchers. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.

Simmons, R. 2009. Sugar rush. Africa -- Birds & Birding 14:14-15.

Simmons, R. 2009. Foreword. In D. Scott, Harriers: journeys around the world. Tiercel Publishing, Herts., UK.

Simmons, R.E., A.R. Jenkins, and C.J. Brown. 2009. A review of the population status and threats to Peregrine Falcons throughout Namibia. Pp. 99-108 in J. Sielicki and T. Mizera (eds.), Peregrine Falcon populations -- status and perspectives in the 21st century. Turul Publishing and Poznan University of Life Sciences Press, Warsaw, Poland.

Simmons, R., and L.A.T. Legra. 2009. Is the Papuan Harrier Circus spilonotus spilothorax a globally threatened species? Ecology, climate change threats and first population estimates from Papua New Guinea. Bird Conservation International 19:379-391.

Seymour, C.L., and R.E. Simmons. 2008. Can severely fragmented patches of riparian vegetation still be important for arid-land bird diveristy? Journal of Arid Environments 72:2275-2281.

Simmons, R.E. 2008. Tall tales: or how the giraffe got its neck. Africa Geographic 16:32-39.

Simmons, R.E. 2008. Raptors and carnivores. Africa Geographic 16:18.

Simmons, R. 2008. White-winged African Marsh Harrier at Langebaan. Promerops 273:14.

Simmons, R.E. 2008. Cats: sweet pussies or a biodiversity catastrophe? Ful Circle 5:30.

Simmons, R 2008. Patagial pitfalls & premiums: the flipside of tags on raptors. Africa -- Birds & Birding 13:12.

Simmons, R.E., T. Hardaker, and W.S. Clark. 2008. Partial albino African Marsh Harrier at Langebaan, South Africa. Gabar 19:60-65.

Crawford, R.J.M., B.M. Dyer, J. Kemper, R.E. Simmons, and L. Upfold. 2007. Trends in numbers of Cape Cormorants (Phalacrocorax capensis) over a 50-year period, 1856-57 to 2006-07. Emu 107:253-261.

Du Plessis, M.A., R.E. Simmons, and A.N. Radford. 2007. Behavioural ecology of the Namibian Violet Hoopoe Phoeniculus damarensis Ostrich 78:1-5.

Simmons, R.E., N. Baker, R. Braby, T. Dodman, O. Nasirwa, S. Tyler, W. Vesfeld, W. Weame, and M. Wheeler. 2007. The Chestnut-banded Plover is an overlooked globally Near Threatened species. Bird Conservation International 17:273-283.

Simmons, R.E., and P.E. Barnard. 2007. Breeding Booted Eagles at Brukkaros, Namibia? Gabar 18:9-15.

Simmons, R.E., and C.J. Brown. 2007. Birds to watch in Namibia: red, rare and endemic species. National Biodiversity Programme, Windhoek, Namibia.

Simmons, R.E., and A.R. Jenkins. 2007. Is climate change influencing the decline of Cape and Bearded Vultures in southern Africa? Vulture News 56:41-51.

Simmons, R. E. 2005. Reviewing the conservation status of the African Marsh Harrier, Circus ranivorus. Gabar 16(1): 25-28.

Simmons, R. E. 2005. Reviewing the conservation status of the Black Harrier, Circus maurus. Gabar 16(1): 29-31.

Curtis, O., R. E. Simmons, and A. R. Jenkins. 2004. Black Harrier Circus maurus of the Fynbos biome, South Africa: a threatened specialist or adaptable survivor? Bird Conservation International 14: 233-245.

Simmons, R. 2004. The last grasp: death by cartwheeling. Africa--Birds & Birding 9: 16.

Simmons, R. 2004. Blood brothers: the mystery of killing kin in the nest. Africa--Birds & Birding 9: 43-48.

Simmons, R. E., and C. J. Brown. 2004. The conservation status of the Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus in Namibia. Gabar 15(1): 12-15.

Dean, W. R. J., R. J. Dowsett, A. Sakko, and R. E. Simmons. 2002. New records and amendments to the birds of Angola. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 123: 180-185.

Simmons, R. E. 2002. Siblicide provides food for raptor chicks: re-evaluating brood manipulation studies. Animal Behaviour 64: 19-24.

Simmons, R. E. 2002. A helicopter survey of Cape Vultures Gyps coprotheres, Black Eagles Aquila verreauxii and other cliff-nesting birds of the Waterberg Plateau, Namibia, 2001. Vulture News 46: 3-7.

Simmons, R. E., and D. G. Allan. 2002. The Orange River avifauna: abundance, richness and comparisons. Ostrich 73: 92-99.

Curtis, O., A. Jenkins, and R. Simmons. 2001. The Black Harrier: work in progress. Africa--Birds & Birding 6: 29-36.

Simmons, R. 2001. Falconry in Namibia - the facts and a rebuttal to accusations made by E. Oettle. Newsletter of the World Working Group on Birds of Prey and Owls 29/32: 52-53.

Simmons, R. 2001. Black-shouldered Kite with bumblefoot. Africa--Birds & Birding 6: 19.

Simmons, R. 2000. Harriers: skydancing through time. Africa--Birds & Birding 5: 36-43.

Simmons, R. 2000. Harriers of the world. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Simmons, R. E. 2000. Peregrines and other raptors at Sandwich Harbor. Lanioturdus 33: 8-10.

Simmons, R., A. Jenkins, and J. New. 2000. A bird in the hand. Africa--Birds & Birding 4: 16-17.

Robertson, A., A. M. Jarvis, C. J. Brown, and R. E. Simmons. 1998. Avian diversity and endemism in Nambia: patterns from the southern African Bird Atlas Project. Biodiversity and Conservation 7: 495-511.

Simmons, R. E., O. Curtis, and A. R. Jenkins. 1998. Black Harrier conservation and ecology: preliminary findings 2000. Journal of African Raptor Biology 13: 33-38.

Simmons, R. E. 1997. Why don't all siblicidal eagles lay insurance eggs? The egg quality hypothesis. Behavioral Ecology 8: 544-550.

Simmons, R. 1994. Conservation lessons from one of Africa's richest raptor reserves. Gabar 9: 2-13.

Simmons, R. E. 1995. Mass poisoning of Lappetfaced Vultures in Namibia. Journal of African Raptor Biology 10: 3.

Simmons, R. E. 1994. Supplemental food alters egg size heirarchies within harrier clutches. Oikos 71: 341-348.

Simmons, R. 1993. Long distance movement of Secretary Bird. Gabar 8: 37.

Simmons, R. 1993. Chance, choice and habitat-related breeding success in a dense population of Wahlberg's Eagles Aquila wahlbergi. Koninklijk Museum voor Midden Afrika Tervuren Belgie Annalen Zoologische Wetenschappen 268: 133-139.

Simmons, R. E. 1993. Effects of supplementary food on density-reduced breeding in an African Eagle: adaptive restraint or ecological constraint? Ibis 135: 394-402.

Henschel, J. R., R. E. Simmons, and J. M. Mendelsohn. 1992. Gabar Goshawks and social spiders revisited: untangling the web. Gabar 7: 49-50.

Simmons, R. E., and J. M. Mendelsohn. 1993. A critical review of cartwheeling flights of raptors. Ostrich 64: 13-24.

Simmons, R. 1992. Population and siblicide studies of Whalberg's Eagle in the western Sabi Sand Reserve, South Africa: a four year summary. Gabar 7: 3-8.

Simmons, R. 1992. Brood adoption and deceit among African Marsh Harriers Circus ranivorus. Ibis 134: 32-34.

Henschel, J. R., J. M. Mendelsohn, and R. Simmons. 1991. Is the association between Gabar Goshawks and social spiders Stegodyphus mutualism or theft? Gabar 6: 57-59.

Simmons, R. 1991. The Wahlberg's Eagle migration mystery. Gabar 6: 13-15.

Simmons, R. 1991. The efficiency and evolution of aerial food passing in harriers. Gabar 6: 51-56.

Simmons, R. 1991. A sex and colour guide to Africa's commonest eagle. Birding in Southern Africa 43: 11-14.

Simmons, R. 1991. Comparisons and functions of sky dancing displays of Circus harriers: untangling the Marsh Harrier complex. Ostrich 62: 45-51.

Simmons, R. 1991. Offspring quality and sibling aggression in the Black Eagle. Ostrich 62: 89-92.

Simmons, R. 1990. (Abstract) Adaptation and constraint in the breeding of subtropical harriers and eagles. Gabar 5: 14-15.

Simmons, R. E. 1991. Biases in diets determined from pellets and remains: correction factors for a mammal and bird-eating raptor. Journal of Raptor Research 25: 63-67.

Simmons, R. 1990. Africa's best kept secret - where Wahlberg's Eagles winter. Gabar 5: 31-32.

Simmons, R. E. 1990. African Goshawk encounter. African Wildlife 44: 91.

Simmons, R. 1990. Local movement of Steppe Buzzards in the eastern Transvaal, RSA. Gabar 5: 24.

Simmons, R. 1990. Copulation patterns of African Marsh Harriers: evaluating the paternity assurance hypothesis. Animal Behaviour 40: 1151-1157.

Simmons, R. E. 1989. Adaptation and constraint in the breeding of subtropical harriers and eagles. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Simmons, R. E. 1989. The Cain and Abel riddle in eagles and other birds. African Wildlife 43: 37-43.

Simmons, R. 1989. The importance and assessment of food provisioning rates for African birds. Tauraco 1: 211-216.

Simmons, R. E. 1989. A winter raptor road count across South Africa - by bicycle. Gabar 4: 18-21.

de Kock, A. C., and R. Simmons. 1988. Chlorinated hydrocarbon residues in African Marsh Harrier eggs and concurrent reproductive trends. Ostrich 59: 180-181.

Simmons, R. E. 1988. Food and the deceptive acquisition of mates by polygynous male harriers. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 23: 83-92.

Simmons, R. 1988. Honest advertising, sexual selection, courtship displays, and body condition of polygynous male harriers. Auk 105: 303-307.

Simmons, R. 1988. Offspring quality and the evolution of canism. Ibis 130: 339-357.

Simmons, R. 1988. Notes on foraging European Marsh Harriers in the Nyl River floodplain, South Africa. Gabar 3: 35-77.

Barnard, P., B. MacWhirter, R. Simmons, G. L. Hansen, and P. C. Smith. 1987. Timing of breeding and the seasonal importance of passerine prey to Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus). Canadian Journal of Zoology 65: 1942-1946.

Simmons, R. 1987. Wintering Buteo buteo in the Cape, RSA. Gabar 2: 71-72.

Simmons, R. 1987. Israel's World Raptor Conference. Gabar 2: 55-65.

Simmons, R. 1986. Delayed breeding and the non-adaptive significance of delyaed maturity in vultures: a fruit fly perspective. Vulture News 15: 13-18.

Simmons, R., P. Barnard, and P. C. Smith. 1987. Reproductive behaviour of Circus cyaneus in North America and Europe: a comparison. Ornis Scandinavica 18: 33-41.

Simmons, R. 1986. In defence of Karoo Red-breasted Sparrowhawks. Bokmakierie 38: 82-83.

Simmons, R. 1986. Immature Black Sparrowhawk eating live guineafowl. Gabar 1: 50-61.

Simmons, R. 1986. Food provisioning, nestling growth and experimental manipulation of brood size in the African Red-breasted Sparrowhawk Accipiter rufiventris. Ornis Scandinavica 17: 31-40.

Simmons, R. 1986. Ecological segregation of the Red-breasted Sparrowhawk Accipiter rufiventris and six coexisting accipitrine raptors in southern Africa. Ardea 74: 137-149.

Simmons, R. 1986. Why is the foraging success of Ospreys wintering in southern Africa so low? Gabar 1: 14-19.

Simmons, R., P. Barnard, B. MacWhirter, and G. L. Hansen. 1986. The influence of microtines on polygyny, productivity, age and provisioning of breeding Northern Harriers: a 5-year study. Canadian Journal of Zoology 64: 2447-2456.

Simmons, R. E., P. C. Smith, and R. B. MacWhirter. 1986. Hierarchies among Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus) harems and the costs of polygyny. Journal of Animal Ecology 55: 755-771.       pdf

Simmons, R. E. 1985. Breeding African Marsh Harriers: request for information. Bokmakierie 37: 78-79.

Simmons, R., and P. C. Smith. 1985. Do Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus) choose nest sites adaptively? Canadian Journal of Zoology 63: 494-498.

Simmons, R. E. 1984. Do Northern Harriers lay replacement clutches? Raptor Research 18: 103-106.

Simmons, R. 1984. Pre-independence behaviour, morphometrics and trapping of fledgling Red-breasted Sparrowhawks. Ostrich 55: 158-162.

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