Tracking Cuckoos to Africa... and back again

We’ve lost over half the number of Cuckoos in the UK over the last 20 years.

Since 2011 we’ve been satellite-tracking Cuckoos to find out why. We’ve learned lots of vital information which could help us to understand our Cuckoos -  such as how the different routes taken are linked to declines, and some of the pressures they face whilst on migration. 

But there is still more to discover. We now need to look more closely at how dependent they are on, and how much their migration is linked, to the drought-busting rains of the weather frontal system known as the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) as they move out of the Congo rainforest and begin to head back to the UK via West Africa.

This project wouldn't have been possible without the amazing support from funders and sponsors. Read more about the project and find out how you can get involved.

We have been able to share our expertise around tracking Cuckoos with other international studies, such as the Beijing Cuckoo Project.

Follow our Cuckoos as they move to and from Africa.

 

Cuckoo movements from 23 May 2017 to 15 December 2017

View routes starting..
Cuckoo positions on
 
 

Latest News

Victor heads south - 30 Nov 2017
Since 27 November Victor has journeyed 265km (170 miles) south within Gabon by the early hours of the 29 November.  He is now just south-east of Bongoville. 
PJ in Angola - 22 Nov 2017
As expected PJ has continued southwards. By 12 November he was just east of the Crystal Mountains in southern Congo and by 16 Nov he was in the Zaire region in northern Angola. Signals on 19 Nov revealed a further southerly movement of 160km (almost 100 miles) to the Coutada do Ambriz reserve. In total he has moved over 890km (590 miles) from his location on 14 November. He may still go a little further within Angola, as last year saw him venture to the Parc Nacional da Quicama, 170km (110 miles) further south. 
Cuckoo class of 2017 - 15 Nov 2017

In 2017, we have been trialling the very latest satellite tracking technology - this year’s cohort were tagged with 2g tags from Microwave Telemetry.

We have, unfortunately, ‘lost’ contact with most of them already. It would seem that the smaller size of the new tag allows the solar panel, used to recharge the tiny battery, to become shaded by feathers, resulting in much less efficient charging of the battery, and consequently lower contact with the tag. Although some may have died, the lack of transmissions from the tags makes it impossible to assess this and in all cases, there were no indications that the birds were in trouble when we last heard from their tags.

This is exacerbated during the winter months by the birds spending more time under the canopy in the Congo rainforest. We don’t know how the batteries will fare when the birds begin their northward migration back to the UK. On leaving the rainforest the tags should receive more sunlight which might be enough to overcome feather shading, and if this happens some of the ‘lost birds’ could pop-up again in February or March, but it is possible that the prolonged shading will have caused irreversible damage to the much smaller batteries in the 2g model. We all have our fingers crossed.

As we move forward we are continuously looking for effective ways to continue gathering this important data for Cuckoos, and other species, to benefit our knowledge and ultimately wildlife conservation. We hope that next year we will be able to track a cohort of cuckoos without these issues arising. 

Get involved

Find out how you can support the project, or contact us directly for further details - cuckoos [at] bto.org

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