Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Cuckoo Flying the Nest

Because the European common cuckoo is an obligate brood parasite and lays its eggs in the nests of other birds it is free to migrate south much earlier than other species of birds. In early summer, when most other bird species are busy raising their young (and sometimes the young of cuckoos), the adult cuckoo is able to begin its migration to Africa. Adult cuckoos in Europe are among the first bird species to begin their migrations. For example in the UK most cuckoos begin flying south in June.Which is great news for anyone who is interested in tracking the progress of migrating Cuckoos.

The British Trust for Ornithology's Cuckoo Tracking Project is currently mapping the migration of twelve European common cuckoos on their journey from the UK to their wintering grounds in the Congo basin of central Africa.The map shows the latest recorded location of each bird and the route they have taken from the UK. The map also includes a playback feature which allows you to watch each bird's entire journey from the 2nd May animated on the map. 

Over the last couple of weeks eyebrows have been raised over the movements of one of the tracked cuckoos. Around the middle of July the cuckoo name Attenborough (in honor of the famous natural historian and broadcaster) decided to suddenly take a massive detour in an easterly direction. He left Spain and flew via Sicily to Greece. This is quite a detour on his journey to his hopeful destination in the Congo basin. 

A cuckoo flying from the UK to central Africa will typically fly travel around 5,000 miles. This is an epic journey but not as far as the migrations taken by the cuckoos who migrate from Mongolia to eastern Africa every year. Mongolian cuckoos make migratory journeys of around 7,500 miles to and from Africa. 

In 2019 the Mongolia Cuckoo Project tracked five cuckoos migrating from Mongolia to Africa. These five birds included a cuckoo called Onon, who made a 16,155 mile migratory round trip to Africa and back to Mongolia. This was one of the longest recorded journeys made by any land bird. 

On Onon's epic journey he visited China, India, and Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately he was the only one of the five tracked birds in the Mongolia Cuckoo Project who successfully made the full round trip. Onon himself is suspected to have died the following year. His tag stopped transmitting in southern Yemen in September 2020.

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