Have you seen a Cuckoo lately?

By Vogelartinfo (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Vogelartinfo (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
The BTO Cuckoo-tracking project is just fascinating.  ‘Our’ cuckoos are now in central Africa.

Have you heard the one about the Scot, the Welshman and the Englishman?

Chance is a Scot, a Scottish cuckoo tagged at Loch Katrine.  He is in Nigeria at the moment and he followed a very similar route through Europe on both journeys south – heading for the same part of the former East Germany (north of Juterbog) before turning south each year.  If we had one trajectory for Chance then one might think that it was just chance (or just Chance) that made him head to Juterbog – but he took what appears to be precisely the same route this autumn too.  There is no getting away from it – Juterbog is somehow pretty firmly lodged in Chance’s genes or memory, or both.  He crossed the Sahara through western Libya and Niger.

David is Welsh, a Welsh Cuckoo tagged at Tregaron.  He is in the Democratic (so-called) Republic of the Congo (DRC).  He has taken quite different routes through Europe on each southward journey, but in both years has crossed the Sahara by a relatively eastern route, through eastern Libya and Sudan.  One year he headed almost due east from Wales, towards Berlin before heading southeast through the Czech Republic, Hungary and Albania but in the other year he travelled south through France and Italy to reach Albania.  The contrast between David’s two routes through Europe is stark and is so different from Chance’s love of, and apparent yearning for, Juterbog.

Chris is English, an English Cuckoo tagged at Santon Downham. He is in the Congo, near the border with the DRC, and his route there was very similar to his route south last year and the year before – but different from Chance’s and David’s.  Chris travels down through France and Italy and then crosses the Sahara through central Libya and Chad.  His three journeys are very similar to each other, and quite different from those of the other two Cuckoos.

Look at the maps of these and other Cuckoos and I challenge you not to be fascinated.

Of course, it is only from our perspective that these are our Cuckoos.  Just these three have passed through or over 37 countries on their travels; France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Montenegro, Greece and Spain in Europe; Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Sudan, Southern Sudan, Niger, Chad, Mali, Western Sahara, Mauretania, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo, Central African Republic and DRC in Africa.

Aren’t birds brilliant!

And the BTO aren’t bad either!


7 Replies to “Have you seen a Cuckoo lately?”

  1. When it yields fascinating information like this, obtainable in no other way, I think it’s also fair to say “isn’t technology brilliant?”.

  2. Apologies for going off on a tangent, but these Likes/Dislikes buttons have their own sub-plot within each blogpost, don’t they?

    Personally, I’m fairly ambivalent towards this particular post, it’s ok I guess, a kind of interesting background piece on migration, but there’s nothing particularly earth shattering in here that would make me click on one button or the other (sorry, Mark).

    Now, cuckoos are an iconic bird to many, with a distinctive call and a fascinating life cycle. So I can well understand why folk would hit the Likes button.

    But the Dislikes button? Odd. Is it because of the bird’s peculiar lifestyle? Mark’s political stance on the DRC? Or is there an internet-savvy Drinker Moth caterpillar out there? I appreciate that due to the anonymous nature of the buttons, there will not be an answer to these questions, but I thought it was an interesting diversion, nonetheless.

  3. Remarkable insight into a sadly declining bird, think I heard and saw just two birds this year (at the similarly remarkable Lakenheath)

  4. I think cuckoos are fascinating birds and the insight we are getting from this project will hopefully help in their conservation, although I suspect in part their decline runs in parallel with a decline in big hairy caterpillars.
    This year I’ve seen fewer than ever, hope its not going the same way as Turtle Dove, which I’ve failed to see this year. What a depressing thought.

  5. Equally interesting is the German Cuckoo tagging website – this mirrors the BTO one so you can compare the different migration routes and where both groups of birds are wintering. I don’t speak German so the details pass me by. One thing that I find interesting is that several of the German tagged birds have gone further south than any of ours. I think I found the link to this site via the BTO.

  6. “Our cuckoos”? We ascribe nationality to people primarily based on where they are born, or sometimes on where their parents were born

    On either basis, it therefore seems quite reasonable to say that cuckoos, and all other summer migrants breeding in UK, are ‘our’ birds. They’re British, damn it!

    By contrast, winter migrants to UK are clearly visitors.

    However, the blog makes the point that these birds are not tied to human geo-political boundaries and their survival depends on conditions in many countries.

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