Cuckoo migration research

From Wildlife Extra:

Satellite tracked cuckoo reaches Africa

BTO Tracking Cuckoos into Africa

July 2011. The ‘Red Listed’ Cuckoo is one of the UK’s fastest declining migrants. Over 50% of the birds migrating between Europe and Africa have disappeared over the past 25 years. Our knowledge about what this amazing species does once it leaves the UK in August is extremely poor, hampering our ability to explain population changes. We lack even basic information about the routes they take to Africa, when they arrive in their wintering grounds, the habitats they use there and how they move around within Africa. This information is urgently needed to form conservation strategies and initiate action – with the development of new 5g tags we can now track this species.

Three Cuckoos have started on migration and have begun their long migration south, while one Cuckoo still remains in Norfolk. Read the blogs below to find out more.

Clement has become the first of the five cuckoos to make it to Africa! Reports have located him on a northern slope of the Atlas mountains – one of the last vegetated locations before the Sahara. This is incredibly exciting on three counts – not only is he the first British Cuckoo tracked all the way to Africa, it’s also the first time ever that a British Cuckoo has been known to migrate through Spain to Africa and, thirdly, we had no idea they reached Africa this early! It was commonly thought they left the UK around now.

Vital information

The Cuckoo is one of the migrants we know least about once it leaves the UK. After they reach south-eastern Europe the recoveries of ‘ringed’ Cuckoos supply no further information, apart from the recovery of one young bird that was found in mid-winter in Cameroon. Knowing where the Cuckoo spends the large part of the year when they are not present in Britain is vital to fully understanding the causes of their declines.

In 2011 we are using small 5g satellite tags to track the movements of five Cuckoos from breeding grounds in East Anglia to their winter quarters in Africa. These have been fitted by BTO staff working with our highly skilled volunteer ringers.

See the map of the cuckoo’s migration.

Lyster the lazy Cuckoo finally leaves UK for France: here.

Cuckoos’ 5,000km journey revealed: here.

BTO cuckoos all now south of the Sahara: here.

October 2011. Kasper has become the first of the 5 cuckoos that BTO are tracking to cross the Equator and he is now the most southerly Cuckoo! Having moved rapidly south, by the morning of 23 October, he was in the savannas of southern Congo, about 50km north of the capital Brazzaville. He seems to have taken a route that minimises the distance across the rainforest: here.

App for bird ringers: here.

July 2011: The diversity of Britain’s birds is increasing – and it is thanks to climate change according to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). However, it is not all good news, as the number of habitat specialists is declining: here.

Satellite-tracked cuckoo takes surprise route to Africa: here.

September 2012. BTO have revealed that no further signals have been received from two of the cuckoos and they have had to assume that they have died. A third cuckoo was already believed to have died in August: here.

October 2012. The first of the cuckoos that BTO are tracking have reached Congo! Chris’s tag first started transmitting from the country in the early hours of 25 September and since then he has continued south. He is now 56km (35 miles) due south of the location that he spent most of last winter, in similarly wet, swamp forest. His arrival in Congo this year is around two weeks earlier than last year, when he arrived on 10 October 2011: here.

Piecing together the epic transoceanic migration of the Long-tailed Cuckoo (Eudynamys taitensis): an analysis of museum and sighting records: here.

13 thoughts on “Cuckoo migration research

  1. Warbler fall for the cuckoo trick

    Monday 25 July 2011

    Incredible images of a reed warbler feeding a baby cuckoo at Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire were released today.

    Cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, fooling them into believing the chick is one of their young.

    The baby cuckoo, which has a seemingly insatiable appetite, hatches first and then quickly disposes of any competition by kicking any other eggs out of the nest.

    Cuckoos are on the decline in Britain so when two pairs of parents arrived at Slimbridge earlier this year, staff were hopeful that they would produce some young.

    James Lees, the reserve warden who took the photos, said: “I felt very excited when I saw it as I had never seen a baby cuckoo and it was amazing to see the two parents flying around desperately trying to provide it with enough food.

    “A cuckoo is about the size of a dove, so it would weigh about five times more than a reed warbler. They also take twice as long to fledge as a warbler, so these poor parents are stuck feeding them for longer.”


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