Matthew Halley

Ornithologist and historian, studies the social evolution of American birds.

Member since: January 01, 2014

Positions and Achievements

Editor: 2016, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020

Potter: 2016

Fellow of the DVOC

Life Member

Editor of the DVOC and co-coordinator of the 2016 Philadelphia Breeding Bird Census.

Winner of the Carbon Footprint Cup at the World Series of Birding in 2009 and 2015, with second place finishes in 2010, 2011, and 2016, as member of cycling team Ridin Birdy.

I grew up in Chester County, PA, in the 1980s. I was obsessed with dinosaurs as a child, but my Catholic education left me largely ignorant of natural selection until 2002, when some influential teachers introduced me to the principles of ecology and evolution, and showed me how to identify birds in the field and watch their behavior. I became slightly obsessed, especially with the secretive species that lurk just out of view in the dense tangles of the forest understory.

In 2005, I joined a research expedition to western Panama to work with Adam Stein on his studies of a hybrid zone where two Manakin species interbreed (Manacus ssp.), then to Israel where I worked with renowned sociobiologist Amotz Zahavi on a study of Arabian Babbler (Turdoides squamiceps) social evolution and behavior. For three consecutive breeding seasons (2006–08) I studied songbird communities in the high sagebrush deserts of northwestern Nevada with Aaron Holmes, and spent the 2006 and 2007 non-breeding seasons in Indonesia and Venezuela respectively. During the latter trip, I worked with Karl Berg to document vocal learning in the Green-rumped Parrotlet (see the great video from the Cornell Lab: In 2009, I lived for 5 months in a montane rainforest in southern India, where I studied amphibian taxonomy. From 2011–2014, I completed a multi-year genetic study of the mating system of the Veery (Catharus fuscescens) in the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont of Delaware.

Now I live in Philadelphia, and am working toward a Ph.D. at Drexel University. My research at the Academy of Natural Sciences is focused on resolving the systematics of the genus Catharus. I also enjoy exploring forgotten corners of Philadelphia in search of birds and lost treasures.