His wings may be just 23cm long but he’s just flown 3,000 miles – this is ‘David’ the cuckoo from Ceredigion
17:08, 2 September 2015
Updated 17:16, 2 September 2015
By Liz Day
The British Trust for Ornithology is researching the migration of cuckoos. ‘David’ was tagged in Ceredigion and has just crossed the Sahara
His wings are just 23cm long and he has flown more than 3,000 miles in the last two months – meet “David” the cuckoo from Ceredigion.
David is blogging every step of his trip, with a little help from the British Trust for Ornithology, who are hoping his journey will help to shed light on population decline.
And since leaving Wales on July 10, David has flown thousands of miles passing through the likes of France and Italy to Bosnia and Montenegro and most recently crossing the Sahara.
‘We need to understand its cycle’
Chris Hewson, senior research ecologist, said: “We have lost more than half the number of cuckoos in the UK over the last 20 years.
“Clearly we need to understand all aspects of the cuckoo’s annual cycle before we can begin to suggest what might be driving the decline.”
In 2011, researchers launched a satellite tracking programme with the aim of discovering the causes of the decline. Five birds were fitted with satellite tags and monitored during their migration.
According to the trust, although cuckoos had been well studied during breeding season in the UK, little was known about the routes they take to Africa or where they spend the winter months.
‘We have learnt a lot of vital information’
Mr Hewson added: “If we can pinpoint areas of importance, then we can look at whether there are pressures which could explain the losses of the British cuckoo.
“We have learnt a lot of vital information which will help save our cuckoos but, there is still more to discover.”
According to the researchers, catching cuckoos is “not an easy task”, as they are known for their ability to escape from nets.
Male cuckoos like to sit in tall trees, so in order to catch them, the ringer has to persuade them to fly low.
They use large-mesh “mist nets”, made from fine nylon mesh, suspended between two bushes in a V-shape and play a recording of a female to lure them in.
Schoolchildren named birds
A model of a female cuckoo is also placed on a pole next to the net, attracting the males to mate.
When a bird is caught, a tag weighing 5g is attached to its body – about 4% of the body weight of an adult male.
The tags are solar-powered, transmitting for 10 hours and then going into sleep mode for 48 hours, to allow the solar panel to recharge the battery.
Most of the cuckoos tagged are adult males because they are larger and able to carry the tag more easily.
This year, 10 cuckoos are being tracked. The birds – Derek, Dudley, Coo, Charlie, Stanley, Larry, Peckham, Vigilamus and Disco Tony – were named by schools as part of a competition.
For more information, visit www.bto.org.
July 10 – David leaves Wales. He is the last of the tagged cuckoos to leave the UK. He flies 560 miles to the north of France.
July 24 – He leaves France and travels east to the Po Valley in Italy.
July 28 – David flies east to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
August 3 – His tag shows he has flown 130 miles to western Montenegro. He rests near Lovcen National Park.
August 26 – He flies south from Montenegro, covering 1,160 miles in three days.
August 29 – David crosses the Mediterranean Sea and reaches Libya.
September 1 – He crosses the Sahara Desert and reaches central Chad.