Marty Leonard


BSc (Guelph), MSc (Carleton)
PhD (Ottawa)

  • Teaching & Research
  • Students' Research Topics
  • Graduates' occupations
  • Publications
  • Links   
  • Teaching & Research

    Behavioural ecology - parent-offspring communication, sibling competition, passerine birds,signal design, communication errors, seabirds.
    Avian Conservation - seabirds, passerines, environmental noise and communication, habitat protection.

    have two main research areas. The first is focused on the behaviour and ecology of birds. In particular, I am interested in understanding how the conspicuous begging signals used by young animals in many taxa may have evolved. Currently, along with my students, I am testing the idea that selection for effective transmission through the environment of the nest explains the structure of begging calls.  In particular, we have been examining how the acoustics of the nest, competition from nest mates and environmental noise together affect the types of signals given by young birds.

    Classes in which Marty currently teaches:
    My second research area is in the conservation of endangered birds. I am interested in understanding the factors that put species at risk and then determining how to reduce the impact of these factors to protect bird populations. We have studied a variety of birds currently listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.  For example, recently we have identified foraging habitat and diet for Roseate Terns, determined the impact of exclosures on nest abandonment in Piping Plovers, examined the impact of forestry on the occurrence of Bicknell’s Thrush and studied the relationship between wintering locations and breeding success in Ipswich Sparrows.  
    Examples of Students' Research Topics
    Honors BSc Students
    • Alison Hutchings – Natural noise and the structure of nestling begging calls.
    • Nicole White – Impact of noise on call development and growth.
    • Adrienne Contasti – The effect of hunger and competition on begging in tree swallows.
    • Danielle Murray – Effects of chronic noise on begging call structure.
    Graduate Students
    • Bob Farmer (PhD) – Effect of survey bias on bird population trends.
    • Krista Patriquin (PhD) – Social behaviour of northern long-eared bats.
    • Greg Breed (PhD) – State space modeling of movement in grey seals.
    • Liz Fairhurst (MSc) – Influence of nest structure and acoustics on the design of begging calls.
    • Brie Drummond (MSc) – Reproductive consequences of nest-site use in Fork-tailed Storm-petrels in the Aleutian Islands.
    • Catherine Dale (MSc) – Links between wintering locations and breeding success in Ipswich Sparrows nesting on Sable Island.
    • Gabrielle Beaulieu (MSc) – Effect of nest exclosures on the behaviour and reproductive success of endangered Piping Plovers.
    Post-doctoral Fellows
    • Rob Ronconi – Mapping seabird distributions for oil spill preparedness.
    Some Graduates' Occupations
    • Environment Canada biologists
    • Parks Canada wardens
    • Biologists with NGOs
    • Teachers
    Selected Publications

    Farmer, R.G., M.L. Leonard and A.G. Horn. (accepted 14 December 2011) Observer effects and avian call count survey quality: rare-species biases and overconfidence. The Auk

    Breed, G.A., W.D. Bowen and M.L. Leonard. 2011. Development of foraging strategies with age in a long-lived marine predator. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 431: 267-279.

    Farmer, R.G. and M.L. Leonard. 2011. Long-term feeding ecology of Great Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus) in the northwest Atlantic: 110 years of feather isotope data. Can. J. Zool. 89: 123-133.

    Dale, C. and M.L. Leonard. 2011. Reproductive consequences of migration decisions by Ipswich Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis princeps). Can. J. Zool. 89: 100–108.

    Magrath, R.D, T.M. Haff, A.G. Horn and M.L. Leonard. 2010. Calling in the face of danger? How predation risk affects acoustic communication by parent birds and their offspring. Advances in Behavior. 41: 187-253.

    Patriquin, K., M.L. Leonard, H. Broders and C. Garroway. 2010. Do social networks of female northern long-eared bats vary with reproductive period and age? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 64: 899-913.

    Horn, A.G. and M.L. Leonard. 2010. Parent-offspring signaling. Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior, Breed, M. D. and Moore, J., eds, Academic Press, Oxford.

    Drummond, B.E. and M.L. Leonard. 2009. Breeding biology of the fork-tailed storm-petrel in the Aleutian Islands. Marine Ornithology 37: 265-273.

    Breed, G.A., I.D. Jonsen, R.A. Myers, W.D. Bowen and M.L. Leonard. 2009.  State-space analyses reveal foraging "hot spots" and sex differences in at sea spatial behaviour of adult grey seals. Ecology 90: 3209 – 3221.

    Leonard, M.L., A.G. Horn and A. Dorland. 2009. Does begging call convergence increase feeding rates to nestling tree swallows? Journal of Avian Biology 40: 243-247.

    Horn, A.G. and M.L. Leonard. 2008. Acoustic interactions in nestling birds. Journal of Comparative Psychology 122: 298-304.

    Leonard, M.L. and A.G. Horn.  2008. Does ambient noise affect growth and call structure in nestlings birds? Behavioral Ecology. 19: 502-507.

    Pagnucco, K., L. Zanette, M.  Clinchy and M.L. Leonard.  2008.  Sheep in wolf’s clothing: host nestling vocalizations resemble their cowbird competitor’s. Proc. Roy. Soc. London B. 275: 1061-1065.

    Chisholm, S.E. and M.L. Leonard. 2008.  Effect of forest management on the abundance of Bicknell's Thrush (Catharus bicknelli). Canadian Journal of Zoology. 86: 217-223.  

    Rock, J.C., M.L. Leonard and A.W. Boyne. 2007. Do co-nesting arctic [MU1] and common terns partition foraging habitat and chick diets ? Waterbirds 30: 579-587.

    Rock, J.C., M.L. Leonard and A.W. Boyne. 2007.  Foraging habitat and chick diets of Roseate Terns  Sterna dougllii  breeding on Country Island, Nova Scotia. Avian Conservation and Ecology 2(1): 4. [online] URL:

    Horn, A.G. and M.L. Leonard. 2006. Acoustic interactions in broods of begging nestling birds. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 119:3223.

    Breed,  G.A., W.D. Bowen,  J.I. McMillan and M.L. Leonard.  2006.  Sexual segregation of seasonal foraging habitats in a non-migratory marine mammal. Proc. Roy. Soc. London B.  273:2319-2326.

    Leonard, M.L. and A.G. Horn.  2006. Age-related changes in signalling of need by nestling tree swallows. Ethology 112:1020-1026.

    Cockle, K.L., M.L. Leonard and A.A. Bodrati.  2005. Presence and abundance of birds in an Atlantic forest reserve and adjacent plantation of shade-grown yerba mate, in Paraguay. Biodiversity and Conservation 14:3265-3288.

    Smith, T.E., M.L. Leonard and B.D. Smith.  2005.  Provisioning rules and competition in asynchronously hatching common terns. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 58: 456-465.

    Leonard, M.L. and A.G. Horn.  2005.  Ambient noise and the design of begging signals. Proc. Roy. Soc. London B. 272: 651-656.

    Leonard, M.L., A.G. Horn and A. Mukhida.  2005.  False alarms and begging in nestling birds. Anim. Behav. 69: 701-708.

    Horn, A.G. and M.L. Leonard.  2005.  Nestling begging as a communication network. In: Animal Communication Networks (Ed. by P. McGregor). Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

    Zink, R.M, J.D. Rising, S. Mockford, A.G. Horn, J. Wright, M.L. Leonard and M. Westberg 2005.  Mitochondial DNA variation, species limits, and rapid evolution of plumage coloration and size in the savannah sparrow. The Auk 107: 21-28.

    Taylor, S., M.L. Leonard, D.J. Boness and P. Majluf.  2004.   Humboldt penguins Spheniscus humboldti change their foraging patterns following breeding failureMarine Ornithology 32:63-67.