Beate Apfelbeck

Beate Apfelbeck

Senior Scientist

Affiliations: Ecophysiology, Behavioral Endocrinology

Hellbrunnerstrasse 34, 5020 Salzburg

Tel.: +43(0)662 8044 5512


Room: D-2.004


Research interest
The main aim of my work is to understand basic relationships between behaviour, hormones and reproductive success and how these relationships vary on a seasonal basis and in different environments. I am using birds as model systems to study the role of the steroid hormones testosterone and corticosterone as mediators of reproductive behaviours (e.g. territorial behaviour, song and parental care). My study sites lie in tropical East Africa and in temperate Europe. In particular, I currently study how life history variation has shaped variation in behaviour and physiology in stonechats and how habitat fragmentation and degradation affects behaviour, physiology and fitness of an East African cloud forest bird species.


Curriculum vitae

  • 2016- 2019: Technische Universität München, Department of Ecology and Ecosystem Management, Chair for Terrestrial Ecology
  • 2013- 2016: Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship at the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine (University of Glasgow, Scotland) studying physiology and genetics of life history differences between African and European stonechats (Saxicola torquata).
  • 2012: Postdoctoral researcher, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany
  • 2007- 2012: PhD thesis on the territorial behaviour and its relation to testosterone in the black redstart. Supervised by Wolfgang Goymann (MPI for Ornithology, Germany)
  • 2002- 2007: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU), Munich, Germany. Diploma thesis on behavioural and hormonal effects of social isolation and neophobia in a flocking bird species, the starling (MPI for Ornithology and LMU). 



Apfelbeck B, Cousseau L, Kung’u GN, Canoine V, Heiskanen J, Korir DK, Lala F, Pellikka P, Githiru M, Lens L (2024) Cooperative breeding alters physiological and behavioral responses to habitat fragmentation. iScience 27(1).

Hauck TE, Apfelbeck B, Hennecke S, Jakoby C, Reinert W, Voigt A, Weisser WW (2024) Die Planung von Städten als Orte der Cohabitation. In: Peer C, Psenner A, Urbane Mixturen (193-215). Bielefeld: transcript Verlag.


Kung’u GN, Cousseau L, Githiru M, Habel JC, Kinyanjui M, Matheka K, Schmitt CB, Seifert T, Teucher M, Lens L, Apfelbeck B (2023) Anthropogenic activities affect forest structure and arthropod abundance in a Kenyan biodiversity hotspot. Biodiversity and Conservation 32: 3255–3282.

Van de Loock D, Cousseau L, Apfelbeck B, Githiru M, Lens L, Matthysen E (2023) Contrasting effects of cooperative group size and number of helpers on maternal investment in eggs and nestlings. Animal Behaviour 198: 107-116.


Cousseau L, Van de Loock D, Apfelbeck B, Githiru M, Matthysen E, Lens L (2022) Kin do not always help: testing multiple hypotheses on nest feeding in a cooperatively breeding bird. Behavioral Ecolology arac073.

Sweet FST, Apfelbeck B, Hanusch M, Monteagudo CG, Weisser WW (2022) Data from public and governmental databases show that a large proportion of the regional animal species pool occur in cities in Germany. Journal of Urban Ecology 8: 1, juac002.


Apfelbeck B, Snep RPH, Hauck TE, Ferguson J, Holy M, Jakoby C, MacIvor JS, Schär L, Taylor M, Weisser WW (2020) Designing wildlife-inclusive cities that support human-animal co-existence. Landscape and Urban Planning, 200: 103817.

Cousseau L, Hammers M,Van de Loock D, Apfelbeck B, Githiru M, Matthysen E, Lens L (2020) Habitat fragmentation shapes natal dispersal and sociality in an Afrotropical cooperative breeder. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 287: 20202428.

Habel JC, Nzau JM, Apfelbeck B, Bendzko T, Fischer C, Kimatu JN, Mwakumanya MA, Maghenda M, Mulwa RK, Rieckmann M, Shauri H, Teucher M, Schmitt C (2020) Land scarcity, communication gaps and institutional confusions influence the loss of biodiversity in south-eastern Kenya. Biodiversity and Conservation 29: 3835–3841.

Teucher M, Schmitt CB, Wiese A, Apfelbeck B, Maghenda M, Pellikka P, Lens L, Habel JC (2020) Behind the fog: Forest degradation despite logging bans in an East African cloud forest. Global Ecology and Conservation 22:e01024.


Apfelbeck B, Hauck TE, Jakoby C, Piecha J, Rogers R, Schröder A, Weisser WW (2019) Animal-Aided Design im Wohnumfeld. Einbeziehung der Bedürfnisse von Tierarten in die Planung und Gestaltung städtischer Freiräume. Bundesamt für Naturschutz, Bonn.

Apfelbeck B, Haussmann MF, Boner W, Flinks H, Griffiths K, Illera JC, Mortega KG, Sisson Z, Smiddy P, Helm B (2019) Divergent patterns of telomere shortening in tropical compared to temperate stonechats. Ecology and Evolution 9: 511-521.

Apfelbeck B, Jakoby C, Hanusch M, Steffani EB, Hauck TE, Weisser WW (2019) A Conceptual Framework for Choosing Target Species for Wildlife-Inclusive Urban Design. Sustainability 11: 6972.

Jakoby C, Rogers R, Apfelbeck B, Weisser HTE, Weisser WW (2019) Die Bewertung von Wildtieren durch Wohnungsbaugesellschaften im Wohnumfeld. Natur und Landschaft 5: 181-187.  DOI: 10.17433/5.2019.50153685.181-187


Apfelbeck B, Helm B, Illera JC, Mortega KG, Smiddy P, Evans NP (2017) Baseline and stress-induced levels of corticosterone in male and female Afrotropical and European temperate stonechats during breeding. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 17: 114.

Apfelbeck B, Flinks H, Goymann W (2017) Territorial aggression does not feed back on testosterone in a multiple-brooded songbird species with breeding and non-breeding season territoriality, the European stonechat. Hormones and Behavior 87: 89-95.

Apfelbeck B, Mortega KG, Flinks H, Illera JC, Helm B (2017) Testosterone, territorial response, and song in seasonally breeding tropical and temperate stonechats. BMC Evolutionary Biology 17: 101.


Apfelbeck B, Flinks H, Goymann W (2016) Variation in circulating testosterone during mating predicts reproductive success in a wild songbird. Frontiers Ecology And Evolution 4: 107.


Goymann W, Villavicencio CP, Apfelbeck B (2015) Does a short-term increase in testosterone affect the intensity or persistence of territorial aggression? – An approach using an individual’s hormonal reactive scope to study hormonal effects on behavior. Physiology & Behavior 149: 310-316.


Villavicencio CP, Apfelbeck B, Goymann W (2014) Parental care, loss of paternity and circulating levels of testosterone and corticosterone in a socially monogamous song bird. Frontiers in Zoology 11: 1-13.


Apfelbeck B, Mortega KG, Kiefer S, Kipper S, Goymann W (2013) Life-history and hormonal control of aggression in black redstarts: Blocking testosterone does not decrease territorial aggression, but changes the emphasis of vocal behaviours during simulated territorial intrusions. Frontiers in Zoology 10: 1-15.

Apfelbeck B, Mortega K, Kiefer S, Kipper S, Vellema M, Villavicencio CP, Gahr M, Goymann W (2013) Associated and disassociated patterns in hormones, song, behavior and brain receptor expression between life-cycle stages in male black redstarts, Phoenicurus ochruros. General and Comparative Endocrinology 184: 93-102. 

Villavicencio CP, Apfelbeck B, Goymann W (2013) Experimental induction of social instability during early breeding does not alter testosterone levels in male black redstarts, a socially monogamous songbird. Hormones and Behavior 64: 461-467.


Apfelbeck B, Kiefer S, Mortega KG, Goymann W, Kipper S (2012) Testosterone affects song modulation during simulated territorial intrusions in male black redstarts (Phoenicurus ochruros). PLoS ONE 7: e52009.


Apfelbeck B, Goymann W (2011) Ignoring the challenge? Male black redstarts (Phoenicurus ochruros) do not increase testosterone levels during territorial conflicts but they do so in response to gonadotropin-releasing hormone. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 278: 3233-3242.

Apfelbeck B, Stegherr J, Goymann W (2011) Simulating winning in the wild – The behavioral and hormonal response of black redstarts to single and repeated territorial challenges of high and low intensity. Hormones and Behavior 60: 565-571.


Apfelbeck B, Raess M (2008) Behavioural and hormonal effects of social isolation and neophobia in a gregarious bird species, the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris). Hormones and Behavior 54: 435-441.