About the Cuckoo Project

It's well known that we have lost over half of our breeding cuckoos during the last twenty-five years. We also know from the BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey that Cuckoos are doing better in some areas of the country than in others, with the decline in England (63%) being greater than in Scotland and Wales, but why are they are declining at the rate they are?

Kasper the Cuckoo

Kasper, one of five satellite-tracked Cuckoos

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.

Whilst the Cuckoo has been well studied during the breeding season here in the UK, once they head off on migration very little was known about the routes they take or where in Africa they spent the winter months. There has only been one recovery of a young bird that was found in mid-winter in Cameroon and that was 82 years ago . If we can pinpoint areas of importance then we can look at whether there are pressures there which could explain the losses of the British Cuckoo.

Putting up a mist net

Putting up a mist net

The development recently of new 5g tags meant that we were able to track this species. In an effort to learn more about the routes and stop-over sites used, five British Cuckoos were fitted with satellite-tags in May 2011. See how we caught the Cuckoos. 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. Read more about the tags here.

Information gleaned from the project will help to form conservation strategies and initiate action. Read about what we have already learnt from the project.

Thank you!

This satellite-tracking project was first funded by a partnership between the BBC Wildlife Fund, BTO members (through the 2010 Christmas raffle),  Essex & Suffolk Water and The Sound Approach. Since then more and more individuals, organisations and companies have joined in to support this exciting project. Take a look here for a full list of all those who have made the project possible. 

The catching team comprised BTO staff: Chris Hewson and Phil Atkinson and volunteer BTO ringers: Paul Noakes and Justin Walker. Kasper Thorup and Mikkel Kristensen from the Natural History Museum of Denmark have kindly advised this project and assisted with the fieldwork. Raymond Klaassen from Lund University advised us when planning the project. Thanks to all the land owners who gave us permission to catch on their land and apologies if we didn't catch a Cuckoo - its not easy!

Cuckoo tracking sponsor - Essex and Suffolk WaterCuckoo tracking sponsor - BBC Wildlife FundCuckoo tracking sponsors - The Sound Approach