image for Schelsky, Wendy

Schelsky, Wendy

Principal Research Scientist, Behavioral Ecology

Address and Contact Information

1816 S Oak St
M/C 652
Champaign, IL  61820
  • Bateman's cowbirds
  • Female cowbirds pay attention to nestling survival

Other campus affiliations

Affiliate, Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior

Affiliate, Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences

Research Biography

Research Interests

My research is integrative and I approach it from both an ecological and evolutionary perspective by studying populations and communities using both molecular tools and rigorous ecological experiments. I am interested in combining both basic and applied science in my research questions. My primary focus is on life-history evolution, specifically life history traits related to the effects of predation and parasitism on avian mating systems. I am particularly interested in the factors affecting mate choice, parental care, and dispersal behavior and how those interact to influence genetic diversity and structure within populations. I have studied questions related to life-history evolution in both temperate and tropical species.

My current research focuses on how the ecology of multiple parasites can interact to affect host fitness and survival. I am investigating how Brown-headed Cowbirds, an obligate brood parasite, can upset the typical balance between the host, the Prothonotary Warbler, and its nest ectoparasite, the blowfly. I am also studying the effects of forest fragmentation on avian communities and their Haemosporidian blood parasites. I am currently developing research to examine the role of parasites in mate choice as well as the factors affecting inbreeding in Prothonotary Warblers.

Professional Affiliations

American Ornithological Society
International Society for Behavioral Ecology


PhD, Biology, University of Florida, 2010

MS, Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2003

BS, Biological Sciences, Colorado State University,1995

Selected Publications

Antonson, N. D., M. E. Hauber, W. M. Schelsky, H. M. Scharf, L. Bulluck, C. Viverette, S. Pirro, and T. J. Boves. 2022. The complete genome sequence of Protonotaria Citrea, the Prothonotary Warbler. Biodiversity Genomes, October

Antonson, N. D., W. M. Schelsky, D. Tolman, R. M. Kilner, and M. E. Hauber. 2022. Niche construction through a Goldilocks principle maximizes fitness for a nest-sharing brood parasite. Proceedings Royal Society B: 289 20221223.

Scharf. H. M., M. E. Hauber, K. H. Stenstrom, W. M. Schelsky. 2022. Should I stay or should I go: the effect of avian brood parasitism on host fledging dynamics. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 76, 64.

Scharf, H. M., W. M. Schelsky, M. L. Chamberlain, M. E. Hauber. 2022. Host parent responses to heterospecific nestling alarm calls are independent of past and current experience with experimental brood parasitism. Animal Cognition.

Scharf, H. M., M. Abolins-Abols, K. H. Stenstrom, D. T. Tolman, W. M. Schelsky, M. E. Hauber. 2021. Exposure to a mimetic or non-mimetic model avian brood parasite egg does not produce differential glucocorticoid responses in an egg-acceptor host species. General and Comparative Endocrinology 304 (2021) 113723.

Parker, C., W. M. Schelsky, and J. P. Hoover. 2021. Pyrodiversity matters: wild turkey habitat selection in a fire managed landscape. Forest Ecology & Management 493 119227.

Scharf, H. M., M. E. Hauber, B. C. Mommer, J. P. Hoover, and W. M. Schelsky. 2021. The effect of avian brood parasitism on physiological responses of host nestlings. Oecologia 195: 861-872.

Hoover, J.P. and W. M. Schelsky. 2020. Warmer April Temperatures on Breeding Grounds Promote Earlier Nesting in a Long-Distance Migratory Bird, the Prothonotary Warbler. Frontiers in Ecology and Ecology and Evolution. Front. Ecol. Evol. 8:580725.

Louder, M.I.M, W. M. Schelsky, J. P. Hoover, A. N. A. Louder, M. E. Hauber. 2020. A seasonal shift in offspring sex ratio of the brood parasitic brown‐headed cowbird (Molothrus ater). Journal of Avian Biology e02560.

Antonson, N. D., M. E. Hauber, B. C. Mommer, J. P. Hoover, and W. M. Schelsky. 2020.  Physiological responses to host parents to rearing an avian brood parasite: an experimental study. Hormones and Behavior 125: 104812.

Hoover, J. P., N. M. Davros, J. D. Brawn, W. M. Schelsky, and S. Wheeler. 2020. Local neighbor density does not influence reproductive output in a secondary cavity-nesting songbird. Auk 137: 1-15.

Louder M.I.M., M.E. Hauber, A.N.A. Louder, J.P. Hoover, W.M. Schelsky 2019. Greater opportunities for sexual selection in male than in female obligate brood parasitic birds. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 00:1-6.

Buxton, V. L., W. M. Schelsky, T. J. Boves, S. Summers, P. J. Weatherhead, and J. H. Sperry. 2018. Effects of drought on brood parasite body condition, follicle development, and parasitism: Implications for host-parasite dynamics. Auk 135(4): 908-918.

Celis-Murillo, A., W. Schelsky, T. J. Benson, M. Mckim-Louder, M. P. Ward. 2017. Patterns, correlates, and paternity consequences of extraterritorial foray behavior in the field sparrow (Spizella pusilla): an automated telemetry approach. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 

Louder, M. I., M. P. Ward, W. M. Schelsky, M. E. Hauber, and J. P. Hoover. 2015. Out on their own: a test of adult-assisted dispersal in fledgling brood parasites reveals solitary departures from hosts. Animal Behavior 110: 29-37.

Louder, M. I. M, W. M. Schelsky, A. N. Albores, and J. P. Hoover. 2015. A generalist brood parasite modifies use of a host in response to reproductive success. Proceedings of the Royal Society London B 282: 201516165.

McKim-Louder, M. I., J. P. Hoover, T. J. Benson, and W. M. Schelsky. 2015. Exploitation of a host’s compensatory behavioral response to fecundity reduction. Behavioral Ecology 26: 255-261 doi:10.1093/beheco/aru187.

Robinson, S., W. Schelsky, and J. Hoover. 2013. Does landscape structure contribute to the long-term maintenance of generalized parasitism in cowbirds? Chinese Birds 4: 31-38.

McKim-Louder, M. I., J. P. Hoover, T. J. Benson, and W. M. Schelsky. 2013. Juvenile survival is a Neotropical migratory songbird is lower than expected. PLoS ONE 8(2)e56059

Steadman, D. W., J. R. Montambault, S. K. Robinson, S. N. Oswalt, T. J. Brandeis, A. G. Londono, M. J. Reetz, W. M. Schelsky, N. A. Wright, J. P. Hoover, J. Jankowski, A. W. Kratter, A. E. Martinez,and J. Smith 2009. Relative abundance, habitat use, and long-term population changes of wintering and resident landbirds on St. John, U. S. Virgin Islands. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 12: 41-53

Schelsky, W. 2004. Research and conservation of forest dependent tinamou species in Amazonia Peru. Neotropical Ornithology 15: 317-321

Wikelski, M., L. Spinney, W. Schelsky, A. Scheuerlein, and E. Gwinner. 2003. Slow pace of life in tropical sedentary birds: a common-garden experiment on four stonechat populations from four different latitudes. Proceedings of the Royal Society London B 1531: 2383-2388.

Bildstein, K. L., W. Schelsky, J. Zalles and S. Ellis. 1998. Conservation status of tropical raptors. Journal Raptor Research 32:3-18.

LDAP Details for Schelsky, Wendy