Decline of the cuckoo in Britain

This 2009 video is called Under Threat: A wake up call for Britain’s cuckoo population.

From The Independent in Britain:

Where have all the cuckoos gone?

One of our favourite birds may be in terminal decline. Simon Birch investigates

Published: 29 March 2007

If you’re planning a trip to the countryside over the coming weeks and are hoping to hear the first cuckoo of spring, be prepared to be disappointed.

The bad news is that the bird whose evocative call has traditionally heralded the end of winter, and that has inspired poets and composers for generations, is rapidly disappearing from Britain’s hedgerows and woodlands.

What growing numbers of birdwatchers have increasingly suspected has been confirmed in figures released by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), which show that cuckoo numbers have plummeted by almost 60 per cent over the past 30 years.

“I’ve been monitoring the arrival of cuckoos back from their African wintering grounds at the Aylesbury sewage treatment works in Buckinghamshire for almost 40 years,” says BTO researcher David Glue.

“But two years ago was the first year, that I didn’t see or hear a cuckoo at that site and the same thing happened last year. It’s very sad that we’re losing one of our most charismatic birds.”

Graham Madge from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is equally concerned. “We have been alarmed for some time about the cuckoo’s fall in numbers over the last three decades,” he says.

“For such a familiar bird to be in so much trouble is extremely worrying.” Indeed, such is the crisis in cuckoo numbers that it’s expected that the cuckoo will soon be added to the Red List, a register of the UK’s most threatened breeding birds.

So just what’s causing cuckoo numbers to nosedive so alarmingly? “While there’s no easy explanation as to what’s going on, the cuckoo’s decline is symptomatic of the difficulties that many other birds now face in the UK,” says Glue.

One possible factor is the decline of the cuckoo’s key host species. The cuckoo is, of course, known as the bird that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds and gets them to raise the young.

Although 50 different species of bird are known to have been targeted by cuckoos for this enforced foster-parenting, just three species, the dunnock, meadow pipit and reed warbler, make up over 80 per cent of all foster parents.

However, the numbers of meadow pipits, which in nest in moorland and heaths, have fallen by 40 per cent over the past 30 years.

Similarly, dunnocks, which nest in woodland and rural gardens, are down by 40 per cent.

Cuckoo eggs puzzle ‘cracked’: here.

6 thoughts on “Decline of the cuckoo in Britain

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