David Parkin

David Parkin
Ornithologist & Natural Historian.

David Parkin is an emeritus Professor of Genetics from Nottingham University. Bird-watching on Tyneside led to degrees in Zoology at Durham (BSc) and Manchester (PhD) and thence to a newly created Department of Genetics at Nottingham (1971). With graduate students and post-docs, he published over 200 scientific papers on evolutionary genetics, including one that was the most cited paper in population biology in the three years following its appearance. More recently, he was co-author of the well-received Birds of Nottinghamshire.

Since retirement, he been a cruise ship lecturer on a number of lines, with numerous cruises to destinations as diverse as Greenland & Spitzbergen, Caribbean, Amazonia, Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Far East. Always eager to share his enthusiasm for wildlife, he has shown passengers some of the world’s most endangered fauna: Pink Dolphins (Amazon), Pink Pigeon (Mauritius), and, in the Caribbean, St Vincent Parrot, Martinique Oriole & Grenada Dove. In Borneo, after a morning at the Sepilok Orang Utan centre, he escorted a half-day cruise to watch wild Proboscis Monkeys and were especially fortunate to also see the globally endangered Storm’s Stork and an Orang Utan. OK these were closer at Sepilok – but this was a real live wild one and she was well appreciated by everyone who saw her.

He lives near Nottingham with his wife Linda who is a successful breeder, exhibitor and judge of English Setters. Now that he is retired, he spends time back in Northumberland when possible.


David always prepares at least one talk to match the region being visited. This will include common and conspicuous birds (and other animals) that might be encountered during the cruise. Usually, these relate to seabirds, but conspicuous land animals are included if they are likely on excursions.

David has a series of talks on iconic places and animals that relate to particular regions. For example, Fair Isle Bird Observatory (Shetland); the Asa Wright Nature Centre (Trinidad); Spitzbergen; The Farne Islands (Northumberland); the extinction of the Dodo on Mauritius; Hummingbirds in the Caribbean; Red & Grey Squirrels in Great Britain; Orang Utans & Palm Oil; Red Grouse and raptor persecution.

Additional lectures include:

1. Rings, satellites and knicker-elastic: From metal rings to satellite transmitters, the methods of marking birds for individual recognition have advanced dramatically over the past 20 years. This talk describes the technology and shows how it has taught us that there is still much to learn about the birds that we thought we knew so well.

2. Bird Migration: A review of the where, why, when and how birds migrate. The talk shows how captive-breeding has revealed that bird migration is inherited and shows how patterns of migration have altered in response to changing conditions in the wider countryside.

3. Cuckoos, Swifts and Turtle Doves: Some of Britain’s most familiar migrant birds are in decline, but is this due to problems on the breeding or wintering grounds – or on migration itself? This talk explores current methods of separating these, and perhaps indicating ways of reversing the trends.

4. North Atlantic Seabirds – threats and challenges: The north-east Atlantic is home to millions of seabirds; Britain & Ireland play host to some truly magnificent colonies. The lecture describes methods of monitoring these and shows how changes in their numbers can often be related to problems in the oceans themselves.

5. Birds and climate change: Almost every professional scientist recognises that our climate is changing – and that this is likely due to human activity. This talk shows how climate acts upon bird populations, and how they are adapting to the challenges that this poses.

6. The changing fortunes of some of Britain’s most familiar birds: Over the last 25 years, we have lost huge numbers of common birds. From Skylarks to House Sparrows, from Lapwings to Corn Buntings, and from Partridges to Hen Harriers, numbers have plummeted. Others, however, such as Goldfinches, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Little Egrets have fared much better. This talk examines the how and why of these changes.

7. Charles Darwin and his Finches: This talk relates why Charles ended up in the Galapagos Islands and how their birds and reptiles played a key role in developing his ideas about evolution.

8. Guillemots, Skuas and Feral Pigeons: ‘Bridled’ Guillemots, dark phase Arctic Skuas and melanic pigeons are all found in the wild. Recent study suggests that these variants affect the biology of the birds in ways that may be inter-connected.

7. Giving birds a helping hand: A series of talks on individual conservation successes (and failures). These show how science is being directed towards resolving the problems faced by individual species that face extinction:

• Chatham Island Black Robin – saving the world’s rarest bird (New Zealand).

• Back from the brink – saving the Bermuda Petrel from near-extinction.

• The struggle to save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper in eastern Asia.

• The re-introduction of the Red Kite to Britain and Ireland.

• White-tailed Sea-eagles in Britain and Ireland.

• Diclofenac and the demise of vultures across the Indian sub-continent.

And I have several Christmas specials:

The life and times of Robin Redbreast - This describes how the European Robin fits into the wider bird world, how it goes about its life, its place in folk-lore and finishes with a review of some famous ‘Robins’.

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree - This covers British game birds and their place in the wider countryside. Grey and Red-legged Partridges, Golden and Common Pheasants, Quail and Red Grouse are all included, with a discussion of the threats and challenges that they both face and pose.

Turkeys and Chickens – Familiar when served up on the table, but where and when did they originate? This talk explores the origins of these familiar birds and describes their wild ancestors.

Birds in Winter – Winter can be harsh and our native wildlife can sometimes struggle to survive. The talk will describe how birds adapt to deep snow and prolonged ice cover. And, maybe, suggest what we can do to help them.

ExpertiseOrnithology Wildlife & Nature
Cruise Experience as Speaker/Tutor19 cruises for SAGA, specialising in wild-life rich regions such as the Amazon, the Caribbean, Greenland & Spitzbergen, the Arabian Gulf & Indian Ocean, and the far east, from Hong Kong through the Philippines and Borneo, to Indonesia and the Barrier Reef.


Wildlife & Nature
Christmas related talks