Dr Chima Nwaogu

Carnegie DEAL Junior Research Fellow

PhD (Groningen & St Andrews)

John Day Building: 1.02

Biography and research

Chima is a Carnegie Developing Emerging Academic Leaders (DEAL) Junior Research Fellow at the Fitzpatrick Institute under the mentorship of Prof. Claire SpottiswoodeDr Susan CunninghamDr Gabriel Jamie and other academics at the Fitzpatrick Institute. Chima’s research focusses on avian annual cycle phenology and life-history evolution in the tropics. He is establishing a new programme of work investigating the timing of breeding in Afrotropical birds and how it may be affected by environmental change.

Chima studied for an undergraduate degree in Zoology and a Master’s degree in Conservation Biology at the University of Jos (Nigeria) before taking up a jointly funded and supervised PhD position at the Universities of Groningen (Netherlands) and the University of St. Andrews (UK) where he studied how variation in environmental condition and diet affect innate immune function and other life history traits in birds.

Chima got involved with birds while visiting the A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI) as an undergraduate student in Nigeria. He has been involved with ornithology and conservation of African birds and is a research associate at the APLORI, where amongst other tasks he helps with monitoring of a Rosy Bee-eater breeding colony on the river Niger, Nigeria. He was most recently a DST-NRF Centre of Excellence Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology where he studied how urbanisation, weather patterns and plumage colour polymorphism associate with differences in breeding performance and physiological responses in Black Sparrowhawks Accipiter melanoleucus.

His current work on the timing of breeding will address a long-standing open question in life history research: why do Afrotropical birds breed when they do? Specifically, he will test a series of hypotheses on the timing of breeding in African Savannah birds using a combination of long-term data, and observational and experimental fieldwork at the Fitz field site near Choma, Zambia. Our current understanding of life-history evolution is heavily biased towards the north-temperate zone, where seasonality is tightly correlated to temperature and variation in daylength, unlike in the tropical and south-temperate zones where environmental conditions are much more varied. Addressing what explains the timing of breeding in Afrotropical birds will help to redress this bias and provide useful information on how breeding phenology may be affected by global change.

Current students:


Rebecca Muller (UCT and Groningen) How has climate change affected the annual cycles of birds in southern Africa. (Co supervisors: Arjun Amar and Irene Tieleman)


Simon Ojomodo (APLORI) (Co supervisors:  Prof. Manu Shiiwua and Dr. Taiwo Crossby Omotoriogun)

Conservation Biology Masters (UCT)

Bruce Chrispo: Influence of climate change on the nest success of Fork-tailed Drongos in the Kalahari (Co-supervisors: Susie CunninghamBen Murphy)

Matthew Lobenhofer: Conserving seasonal patterns in nature: seasonal insect abundance and diversity in the Afrotropics. (Co-supervisors: Claire SpottiswoodeCharlene Janion-Scheepers)

Peer-reviewed publications


Attwood, M.C., Lund, J., Nwaogu, C.J., Moya, C. and Spottiswoode, C.N. 2023. Aggressive hosts are undeterred by a cuckoo's hawk mimicry, but probably make good foster parents. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 290. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2022.1506

Simon, O.G., Manu, S.A., Nwaogu, C.J. and Omotoriogun, T.C. 2023. Supplementing a grain diet with insects instead of fruits sustains the body condition of an omnivorous bird. Ecology and Evolution 13(5). https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.10141

van der Wal, J. E. M., Spottiswoode, C. N., Uomini, N. T., Cantor, M., Daura-Jorge, F. G., Afan, A. I., Attwood, M. C., Amphaeris, J., Balasani, F., Begg, C. M., Blair, C. J., Bronstein, J. L., Buanachique, I. O., Cuthill, R. R. T., Das, J., Deb, A., Dixit, T., Dlamini, G. S., Dounias, E., Gedi, I.I., Gruber, M., Hoffmann, L.S., Holzlehner, T., Isack, H.A., Laltaika, E.A., Lloyd-Jones, D.J., Lund, J., Machado, A.M.S., Mahadevan, L., Moreno, I.B., Nwaogu, C.J., Pereira, V.L., Pierotti, R., Rucunua, S.A., dos Santos, W.F., Serpa, N., Smith, B.D., Tolkova, I., Tun, T., Valle-Pereira, J.V.S., Wood, B.M., Wrangham, R.W. and Cram, D. L. 2022. Safeguarding human–wildlife cooperation. Conservation Lettershttps://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12886

Nwaogu, C.J., Jarrett, C. and Helm, B. 2021. The biology of molt in birds. Ornithologyhttps://doi.org/10.1093/ornithology/ukab053 

Brlík, V., Pipek, P., Brandis, K., Chernetsov, N., Costa, F.J., Herrera M, L.G., Kiat, Y., Lanctot, R.B., Marra, P.P., Norris, D.R., Nwaogu, C.J., Quillfeldt, P., Saalfeld, S.T., Stricker, C.A., Thomson, R.L., Zhao, T. and Procházka, P. (2021) The reuse of avian samples: opportunities, pitfalls, and a solution. Ibishttps://doi.org/10.1111/ibi.12997

Nwaogu, C.J. and Cresswell, W. 2021. Local timing of rainfall predicts the timing of moult within a single locality and the progress of moult among localities that vary in the onset of the wet season in a year-round breeding tropical songbird. Journal of Ornithology 162: 265–276. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-020-01825-1 

Nwaogu, C.J., Cresswell, W. and Tieleman, B.I. 2020. Geographic variation in baseline innate immune function does not follow variation in aridity along a tropical environmental gradient. Scientific Reports 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-62806-1 

Nwaogu, C.J., Galema, A.; Dietz, M.W.; Cresswell, W. and Tieleman, B.I. (2020) A fruit diet rather than an invertebrate diet maintains a robust innate immunity without a deterioration of body condition. Journal of Animal Ecology 89: 867-883.  


Nwaogu, C.J., Cresswell, W., Versteegh, M.A. and Tieleman, B.I. (2018) Environment explains seasonal differences in baseline innate immune function better than annual cycle stages in a natural tropical songbird population. Journal of Animal Ecology 88: 537–553.  


Nwaogu, C.J., Tieleman, B.I., Bitrus K.Z. and Cresswell, W. (2018) Temperature and aridity determine body size conformity to Bergmann’s rule independent of latitudinal differences in a tropical environment.  Journal of Ornithology 159: 1053–1062. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-018-1574-8

Nwaogu, C.J., Tieleman, B.I. and Cresswell, W (2018) Weak breeding seasonality of a songbird in a seasonally arid tropical environment arises from individual flexibility and strongly seasonal moult. Ibis 161(3). https://doi.org/10.1111/ibi.12661

Nwaogu C.J. and Ivande S. T. (2017). Greater Honeyguide Indicator indicator brood parasitismand presence of a developmental bill hook in the Rosy Bee-eater Merops malimbicus.  Bulletin of African Bird Club 24(2): 204-208

Nwaogu C.J., Agbo B.O., Bitrus K.Z.., Ottosson U. and Manu S. A. (2017) Status of the Rosy Bee-eater Merops malimbicus on the Niger River, north-central Nigeria. Bulletin of African Bird Club 24(2): 171-181.

Nwaogu, C.J., Dietz, M.W., Tieleman, B.I. and Cresswell, W (2017) Breeding limits foraging time: evidence of interrupted foraging response from body mass variation in a tropical environment. Journal of Avian Biology 48(4): 565 – 569. https://doi.org/10.1111/jav.01132

Nwaogu, C.J. and Cresswell, W. (2016) Body reserves in intra-African migrants - Journal of Ornithology 157: 125–135. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-015-1259-5

Book reviews

Nwaogu CJ, Jarrett C, and Helm B. (2021) The Biology of Molt in Birds. Ornithology Volume 138, 2021, pp. 1–3. https://doi.org/10.1093/ornithology/ukab053

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