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…going, going, gone!

Over the next few weeks, 10 high-tech, backpack-wearing Cuckoos will be leaving our shores for their wintering grounds in central Africa; what they reveal on their journeys may well help save the species here.

As part of an on-going study to find out why our Cuckoos are disappearing – we have lost almost three-quarters of our Cuckoo population during the last 25 years – the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has fitted 10 Cuckoos with tiny satellite tags, in a bid to follow them back to their wintering grounds in central Africa.

The study has already identified important migration routes via stopover sites in northern Italy and southern Spain, and the precise wintering locations in the Congo rainforest. Mortality of Cuckoos taking the route via Spain has been linked to population decline within the UK, but what scientists at the BTO would like to know now is how successful our Cuckoos are at making it to and from Africa in different summers, and, specifically how relatively important are conditions here in the UK and southern Europe in contributing to a successful crossing of the mighty Sahara?

cuckoo in flight
cuckoo in flight ©Ashley Beolens Views From An Urban Lake

Dr Chris Hewson, lead scientist on the project at the BTO, said, “This has been an incredibly exciting project identifying, for the first time, where our Cuckoos go for the winter, how they get there and how survival during migration appears to be contributing to their population decline. But we now need to delve a little deeper to see exactly how they interact with their environments along the way. In a wet, cold summer here in the UK, are our Cuckoos less likely to successfully get to their wintering grounds? Or, are conditions in southern Europe, where the cuckoo make final preparations to cross the Sahara, more important. These are the kind of the questions we would like answers for. Anyone can follow these birds as they make their way south, by viewing our interactive map at www.bto.org/cuckoos.

The first of these birds could leave any day now. The birds have been given names; these are Sherwood, Robinson, Knepp, Raymond, Lambert, Carlton II, Sylvester, Thomas, Cameron and Bowie. The birds were tagged at sites in Suffolk, Sherwood Forest, Thetford Forest, the Knepp Estate in Sussex and the New Forest.

Follow your favourites as they undertake their long journeys south HERE

Mike Toms - BTO

8th June 2018