David Allan

 BA (Wits), BSc Hons (Wits), MSc (Cape Town)

David Allan has been Curator of Birds at the Durban Natural Science Museum since 1996. Prior to this he worked as a Senior Scientific Officer at the Avian Demography Unit (1990-1996) and a Research Officer at the FitzPatrick Institute (1987-1990), both at the University of Cape Town. His career in ornithology started at a provincial nature conservation agency where he was a Nature Conservation Officer and later Nature Conservation Scientist. David’s interest in birds is broad, with a particular focus on birds of prey, cranes, bustards, pelagic seabirds, threatened Highveld grassland birds, waterbirds, birds of the Lesotho highlands, bird atlassing, geographical variation in birds and bird identification.

David has produced some 692 publications, of which 227 are of a more formal scientific nature and 465 in a semi-popular or popular format; these are almost exclusively in ornithology. Species accounts for bird handbooks have been a hallmark of his publication interests, including for the two-volume The Atlas of Southern African Birds, Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, The Ultimate Companion for Birding in Southern Africa, Handbook of the Birds of the World and regional red data books. He is a regular contributor to African Birdlife, the semi-popular magazine of BirdLife South Africa and produced a regular column of the magazine over a five-year period. He has been an editor of several journals and newsletters including the Durban Natural Science Museum Novitates (1997 to date), GABAR/Journal of African Raptor Biology (1992-1997) and KZN Birds the semi-popular newsletter of the KwaZulu-Natal Branches of BirdLife South Africa (2004-2007). He is one of three editors of the online journal Afrotropical Bird Biology, hosted by the University of Cape Town Libraries Dept.

He has attended at least 72 scientific conferences, symposia, workshops and fora, some of which he has convened himself or acted as a session chairman, and at most meetings he has given oral presentations. Honorary positions he has held include: member of the BirdLife International African Important Bird Areas Steering Committee (1994-1996), Chair of the BirdLife South Africa Scientific Committee (1996-1998), member of the Local Organising Committee for the 22nd International Ornithological Congress held in Durban in 1998, Chair of BirdLife Port Natal (2001-2003), member of the Steering Committee, Southern African Bird Atlas Project (2007-2011) and member of the BirdLife South Africa National Rarities Committee (2007-2018). He is currently a member of the BirdLife South Africa List Committee, Chair and Trustee of the KwaZulu-Natal Ornithological Trust and Honorary President of BirdLife Port Natal. He is a long-time member and supporter of BirdLife South Africa (and its predecessor the Southern African Ornithological Society). A popular public speaker, over the period he has been at the Museum he has given 229 popular talks on birds to a wide variety of interest groups throughout South Africa. He has led over 100 pelagic seabird day-trips off the coast of KZN.

David was a co-recipient along with the other editors of the John F.W. Herschel Gold Medal of the Royal Society of South Africa in 1999 for his contribution to the two-volume The Atlas of the Birds of Southern Africa. He was awarded the Steven Piper Lifetime Achievement Award of the Endangered Wildlife Trust in 2014 for his work on birds of prey. He is registered as a Professional Natural Scientist (Zoological Science) with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (reg. no.: 115499).

Selected publications


Dolpire, D. & Allan, D.G. 2018. The sentinels – cranes of South Africa. HPH Publishing: Johannesburg.

Chittenden, H., Allan D.G. & Weiersbye, I. 2012. Geographic variation of southern African birds. John Voelcker Bird Book Fund: Cape Town.

Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree, A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (eds) 1997. The atlas of southern African birds. Vol. 1: Non-passerines. BirdLife South Africa: Johannesburg.

Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree, A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (eds) 1997. The atlas of southern African birds. Vol. 2: Passerines. BirdLife South Africa: Johannesburg.

Allan, D.G. 1996. A photographic guide to birds of prey of southern, central and east Africa. New Holland Publishers: London.

Tarboton, W.R. & Allan, D.G. 1984. The status and conservation of birds of prey in the Transvaal. Transvaal Museum Monographs 3: 1-115.


Adekola, O.E., Allan, D.G., Bernitz, Z. & Ryan, P.G. (in press). Extent and symmetry of tail moult in Amur Falcons. Journal of Ornithology.

Van Niekerk, L., Adams, J.B., Allan, D.G., Taljaard, S., Weerts, S.P., Louw, D., Talanda, C. & Van Rooyen, P. 2019. Assessing and planning future estuarine resource use: A scenario-based regional-scale freshwater allocation approach. Science of the Total Environment 657: 1000-1013.

Allan, D.G. 2019. In black and white. African Birdlife 7(4): 46-48.

Allan, D.G. 2019. Annihilation – Storms wreak havoc with Amur Falcons. African Birdlife 7(5) 22-24.

Allan, D.G. & Mashao, M. 2019. Hail storms and silver linings. Thola 21: 6-8.

Allan, D.G. & Perrins, N.D. 2019. First confirmed African record of Tahiti Petrel Pseudobulweria rostrata. Marine Ornithology 47: 89-91.

Allan, D.G. & Perrins, N. 2019. Tahiti Petrel – first confirmed record for Africa. African Birdlife 7(2): 12.

Allan, D.G. & Chittenden, H. 2018. Splitting the difference – Fork-tailed Drongo. African Birdlife 6(6): 46-47.

Allan, D.G. & Mashao, M. 2018. Very much our type Thola 20: 66-71.

Allan, D.G., Williams, K. & Midgley, J. 2018. Digging deep – resourceful scimitarbill. African Birdlife 6(5): 16.

Allan, D.G. 2017. In the footsteps of Livingstone. Thola 19: 24-28.

Allan, D.G. 2016. Hybrid heron? African Birdlife 4(3): 12-13.

Allan, D.G. 2016. Feather finesse – a closer look at Bateleurs. African Birdlife 4(4): 22-27.

Allan, D.G. 2016. Searching for snakes-eagles. Thola 18: 50-53.

Allan, D.G. 2016. The Dodo discoveries. Thola 18: 54-56.

Buij, R., Clark, W.S. & Allan, D.G. 2016. First records of Red-necked Buzzard Buteo auguralis in southern Africa, with notes on identification of Buteo buzzards in the subregion. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 23(1): 46-63.

Allport, G. & Allan, D.G. 2015. A re-examination of two specimens of Steppe Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus alboaxillaris Lowe, 1921 in the Durban Natural Science Museum. Durban Natural Science Museum Novitates 38: 41-45.

Davies, G.B.P. & Allan, D.G. 2015. The juvenile plumage of Golden-tailed Woodpecker Campthera abingoni (Aves: Picidae) in southern Africa. Durban Natural Science Museum Novitates 38: 46-49.

Allan, D.G. 2015. It’s complicated – long-distance relationships. African Birdlife 3(6): 57-60.

Allan, D.G. 2015. Take to the skies. Thola 17: 32-33.

Allan, D.G. 2015. Coming out of its shell. Thola 17: 50-52.

Shaw, J.M., Jenkins, A.R., Allan, D.G. & Ryan, P.G. 2015. Population size and trends of Ludwig’s Bustard Neotis ludwigii and other large terrestrial birds in the Karoo, South Africa. Bird Conservation International 26: 69-86.

Allan, D.G. 2014. Lagging – publication trends in Afrotropical vultures. Vulture News 66: 3-15.

Allan, D.G. 2014. Counting on the dock of the bay. Thola 16: 58-61.

Allan, D.G. 2014. Petrelheads. Thola 16: 61-62.

Allan, D.G. 2014. South African natural science museum journals – the past 50 years (1964-2013). Going down swinging or just adjusting to the right fighting weight? Durban Natural Science Museum Novitates 37: 1-6.

McInnes, A.M., Allan, D.G. & Underhill, L.G. 2014. Moult of the Grey-headed Gull Larus cirrocephalus in South Africa. Durban Natural Science Museum Novitates 37: 40-46.

Allan, D.G. 2013. The waterbirds of Durban Bay – current and historical population trends. Durban Natural Science Museum Novitates 35: 1-74.

Allan, D.G. 2013. Flying in the face of danger. Thola 15: 30-33.

Allan, D.G., Benson, P.C., Pfeiffer, M. & Theron, N. 2013. Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres caught in gin trap. Vulture News 64: 50-54.

Crawford, R.J.M., Randall, R.M., Whittington, P.A., Waller, L., Dyer, B.M., Allan, D.G., Fox, C., Martin, A.P., Upfold, L., Visagie, J., Bachoo, S., Bowker, M., Downs, C.T., Fox, R., Huisamen, J., Makhado, A.B., Oosthuizen, W.H., Ryan, P.G., Taylor, R. & Turpie, J.K. 2013. South Africa’s coastal-breeding white-breasted cormorants: population, trends, breeding season and movements, and diet. African Journal of Marine Science 35(4): 473-490.

Jenkins, A.R. & Allan, D.G. 2013. Location, location, location. African Birdlife 1(4): 52-56.

Krüger, S.C., Allan, D.G., Jenkins, A.R. & Arjun, A. 2013. Trends in territory occupancy, distribution and density of the Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus meridionalis in southern Africa. Bird Conservation International 24(2): 162-177.

Book reviews

Allan, D.G. 2020. Zulu bird names and bird lore by Adrian Koopman. African Birdlife 8(3): 14-15.

Allan, D.G. 2020. Lexicography – Notes on Xhosa lore and language (1909-1934). African Birdlife 8(3): 16.

Allan, D.G. 2020. Lesotho annotated bibliography. Section 167A - Birds annotated species checklist & Section 167B - Birds annotated bibliography by David Ambrose. African Birdlife 9(1): 16.

Allan, D.G. 2014. Hornbills of the world by Pilai Poonswad, Alan Kemp and Morten Strange. African Birdlife 2(4): 16.

Allan, D.G. 2019. African raptors by Bill Clark and Rob Davies. African Birdlife 7(5): 12-13.

Allan, D.G. 2017. Guide to seabirds of southern Africa by Prof. Peter Ryan. African Birdlife 5(1): 16.

Allan, D.G. 2016. Terrestrial gamebirds and snipes of Africa by Rob Little. African Birdlife 5(1): 16.

Allan, D.G. 2014. Eagles of Africa by Johan Knobel. African Birdlife 2(3): 23.