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Chris the Cuckoo Returns

Famous Cuckoo makes it back to the UK against all the odds!

In May 2011 the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) fitted a satellite tag to a Cuckoo in an attempt to help find answers behind the dramatic decline of this iconic species here in the UK. Little did they know that they would still be following this bird three years later.

Named after wildlife TV presenter, Chris Packham, Chris the Cuckoo is a remarkable bird. Having left Sierra Leone, just south of the Sahara desert, on 11 April this year, by the evening of Friday 25 April he was back at the spot that he spent most of last summer and close to where the tag was originally fitted on the Norfolk/Suffolk border.

During the three years he has successfully crossed the Sahara desert six times and clocked up an amazing 47,000km on his migratory flights to and from the Congo Rainforest. He has helped identify the Po valley in northern Italy as an important site for resting, and more importantly, for feeding up and preparing for the southward crossing of the desert, easily the most demanding and dangerous part on his migration. He also helped scientists find out where British Cuckoos spend the winter and that they head back to the UK in the spring through West Africa.

Even more amazing is that he is still transmitting information to scientists at the BTO. The average lifespan of a Cuckoo is around four years – Chris is at least four years old as he was an adult when he was tagged in 2011. It was originally thought that Chris’ satellite tag would last for two to three years. Both Chris and his tag have exceeded all expectations; and both are still going!

On Saturday morning he was moving around the area close to Cavenham Heath, Suffolk, presumably in search of any female Cuckoos – we’ve learnt from previous years tracking that he will be in this area for the next six weeks or so before he starts his journey back to Congo.

Dr Phil Atkinson, lead scientist on the project said, “It is fantastic that Chris has given us so much information over the last three years. However, it isn’t over yet. The technology used to track our Cuckoos is cutting edge, and whilst we think that Chris’s tag might stop transmitting in the coming year, we really don’t know as this is the first time these tags have been used and they might last longer than we currently think.”

He added, “I really hope that is the case and we get to follow this very special bird for a while longer yet.”

Anyone can follow the BTO Cuckoos as they make their way back to their breeding sites here in the UK at: http://bto-enews.org/NXI-2EPNC-3BWYNQ-11NAFR-0/c.aspx

4th July 2014