Mrs Yen Yi Loo

MSc, BSc (Hons)

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Doctoral Candidate - Doctor of Philosophy



2017: MSc Bird Conservation (Manchester Metropoliton University, UK)
Thesis topic: Migration patterns of three south American tyrant-flycatchers using citizen science data and species distribution modelling techniques

2015: BSc (Honours) Environmental Science (University of Nottingham, Malaysia)
Thesis topic: Impact of land conversion by documenting the functional diversity of birds in plantations in a peatland habitat.


Broad research interests:

  • Vocal development & vocal learning
  • Ornithology & patterns of life
  • Tropical ecology
  • Behavioural ecology
  • Ethno-biology & science communication

Research | Current

Understanding the origin of vocal learning in birds using New Zealand’s missing link, the rifleman or tītipounamu.

I am exploring the vocal learning systems that songbirds have - they are the biggest group of vocal learners in the world. The key question I will tackle is whether the most basal songbirds have vocal learning ability. The recent re-ordering of the avian phylogenetic tree has generated a new, alternative hypothesis indicating that vocal learning may have evolved in the common ancestor of parrots and songbirds. A key taxa for addressing this question are the New Zealand wrens as they are now the link between these two clades. My research will focus on the tītipounamu (rifleman, Acanthisitta chloris), one of the two extant species in the NZ wrens suborder.. Because they are elusive and sacred to the Maori, we are using indirect methods to test their vocal learning ability. I document the vocal ontogeny, seasonal variation and functions of calls in this species. I also collaborate closely with Ines Moran who focuses on the kinship aspect and geographical variation in vocalizations of this species. The collective evidences gathered from our research projects will determine if the rifleman follows the criteria of a vocal learner or non-learner and reopen the question of the vocal learning origins in birds.

Teaching | Current

2019 & 2020 - BIOSCI207 Adaptive Form & Function (Teaching Assistant)

2018 & 2019 - BIOSCI337 Animal Behaviour (Teaching Assistant)


Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour (Member)
  • Birds New Zealand (Member)
  • Animal Behaviour Society (Member)
  • Society of Conservation Biology (Member)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Loo, Y. Y., Moran, I. G., & Cain, K. E. (2019). Grey warbler (Gerygone igata) aggressive behaviour towards rifleman (Acanthisitta chloris) fledglings. Notornis, 66 (3), 174-177. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Kristal Cain
  • Moran, I. G., Loo, Y. Y., & Cain, K. E. (2019). Long-tailed cuckoo (Eudynamys taitensis) predation on rifleman (Acanthisitta chloris) nestlings. Notornis, 66 (2), 103-107. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Kristal Cain
  • Tan, C. K. W., Lee, J. W., Hii, A., Loo, Y. Y., Campos-Arceiz, A., & MacDonald, D. W. (2018). The effect of using games in teaching conservation. PeerJ, 6.10.7717/peerj.4509
  • Lim, T. W., Quinton, D. P., Solana-Mena, A., Loo, Y. Y., Loke, V. P. W., Angah, R., ... Tauhid, C. (2017). Short Notes – Temiar Bird Names. Malayan Nature Journal, Special Edition, 21-24.
  • Loo, Y. Y., Billa, L., & Singh, A. (2015). Effect of climate change on seasonal monsoon in Asia and its impact on the variability of monsoon rainfall in Southeast Asia. Geoscience Frontiers, 6 (6), 817-823. 10.1016/j.gsf.2014.02.009


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 1, Room 149
New Zealand

Social links

Web links