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Last call for Cuckoos?

In June I change my tune; in July far, far I fly?

“In June I change my tune; in July far, far I fly”, but, before they do, the BirdTrack team would like to learn about any Cuckoos that birdwatchers have seen or heard this summer.

Cuckoo numbers have been falling for years but initial findings from 3,600 BirdTrackers show that up to one third of them could be missing this year, compared to 2004. This is a serious blow for a species that was once common in most British habitats. To help to ascertain the size of the problem the species faces, birdwatchers are asked to report Cuckoos via the BirdTrack web-site on http://www.BirdTrack.net.Dawn Balmer of the BTO, who runs BirdTrack, the on-line bird recording system from the BTO, RSPB and BirdWatch Ireland partnership, is really concerned about Cuckoos. Birdwatchers from across Britain and Ireland have been reporting many fewer Cuckoos this spring. In some areas where three or four usually call they are down to one. We have received many calls from members of the public this year worried about the lack of Cuckoos. There is no easy explanation as to what is happening. She said.

David Glue, who has been researching Cuckoos and the host species in whose nests they lay their eggs for over thirty years is really concerned by this sudden drop: We know that life has been tough for host species such as the Dunnock and that typical Cuckoo moorland and hedgerow habitats have changed over the years. However, such a marked drop in one year must reflect serious problems for the species in East Africa, where Cuckoos spend the winter. It is hard when migrant species have to try to cope with both drought in Africa and habitat degradation in Britain & Ireland.

Richard Gregory, head of the RSPB’s monitoring and survey section, said: We have been alarmed for some time about the Cuckoo’s fall in numbers over the last three decades. The low numbers recorded this year adds considerably to our concerns. For such a familiar bird to be in so much trouble is extremely worrying. The Cuckoo is likely to join an ever-growing list of birds struggling for survival in the UK.

4th July 2014