Nick Pattinson

BSc (Hons), U.Pretoria; MSc, NMMU

I come from a farm outside Harrismith in the Free State, and went to school in Kwa-Zulu Natal. I spent most of my time fly-fishing and birding, and decided to turn my passions into a career, heading to the University of Pretoria to study a BSc Zoology. My research career kicked off when I was able to secure an amazing opportunity to acquire my zoology honours under the supervision of Prof. Andrew McKechnie and Dr Susan Cunningham, which saw me conduct field work in both the Kalahari Desert in South Africa and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, USA. After graduating I moved to Port Elizabeth, to take on a zoology masters supervised by Dr Ben Smit. For my masters I looked at the physiology and behaviour of the rufous-eared warbler (Malcorus pectoralis) in the Karoo semi-desert. After completing that I took a year off, and now look forward to starting a Ph.D. with the Hot Birds team, under the primary supervision of Dr Susie Cunningham. This will look at the thermal physiology and behaviour of the yellow-billed hornbill (Tockus leucomelas) during its reproductive season. This will build on a large amount of amazing work done by Tanja van de Ven during her PhD., and work towards understanding the potential impacts of climate change on summer breeding birds in arid environments.

In broad terms, I am interested in the natural environment, and conservation. Specifically, my interests lie in thermal ecology – how organisms deal with variable thermal environments – and how the relationship between organisms and their environments will change under climate change. Because of a lifelong passion for birds, I have specialised in the thermal ecology of birds.​


Effects of temperature and resource availability in the reproductive ecology of an arid zone bird Supervisors: Susan Cunningham, Andrew McKechnie.

Peer-reviewed Publications

Pattinson, N.B., Thompson, M.L., Griego, M., Russell, G., Mitchell, N.J., Martin, R.O., Wolf, B.O., Smit, B., Cunningham, S.J., McKechnie, A.E. and Hockey, P.A. 2020. Heat dissipation behaviour of birds in seasonally hot, arid‐zones: are there global patterns? Journal of Avian Biology 

Ribeiro, Â.M., Puetz, L., Pattinson, N.B., Dálen, L., Deng Y., Zhang G., da Fonseca R.R., Smit B., Gilbert M.T.P. 2019. 31° South: The physiology of adaptation to arid conditions in a passerine bird. Molecular Ecology 28: 3709-3721. http://dx.doi.10.1111/mec.15176

Pattinson, N.B. and Smit, B. 2017. Seasonal behavioural responses of an arid-zone passerine in a hot environment. Physiology and Behavior, 179: 268-275.

Hot Birds Website link: