Follow that Cuckoo

01 Jun 2013 | No. 2013-21

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has just launched the Cuckoo class of 2013, as part of their exciting research into the decline of this iconic bird.  They are already on their way to Africa. Sussex the Cuckoo was the first to leave on June 15 and he has now been joined by four other Cuckoos. There are now two birds in northern France, one in Belgium, one in the Netherlands and one in northern Italy.

Since 2011, the BTO have been fitting satellite tags to Cuckoos in different parts of the UK with the aim of finding out what Cuckoos do once they leave for the winter months, and the information that these intrepid birds have provided has been a real eye-opener. Before 2011 the wintering location of British Cuckoos was unknown but these birds have shown that our Cuckoos spend the winter in and around the Congo Rainforest, arriving there in September and leaving again, via West Africa, in February.

However, there is still a lot to learn. Do Cuckoos from different parts of the UK winter in different areas? Do they take very different routes through Europe and North Africa to get there and what barriers may be preventing our cuckoos from completing their migrations?

With the aim of getting as much information as possible, the BTO have added a new group of Cuckoos to the project. Birds from Devon, Sussex, East Anglia and Scotland have joined those that made the long journey back to the UK this spring, one of which was first tagged in May 2011. This bird, named Chris in honour of Springwatch’s Chris Packham, has travelled in excess of 40,000 miles to and from the UK during the last two years, providing a wealth of information in the process.

The new birds have been given names, amongst which are Whortle, Livingstone and Waller. They are named by sponsors, often reflecting the area in which they were caught. The names not only help the BTO raise essential funds, to ensure that this vital project can be carried out, they also make it easier for the public to identify with the individual birds undertaking these epic journeys.

Rachel Gostling, Supporter Development Officer for the BTO said, "Thank you to everyone who has supported this project and helped us to learn a huge amount about Cuckoo migration. This new information will be vital in understanding the challenges faced by our Cuckoos. In the two years of the project, Cuckoos have experienced very different weather conditions during their migratory journeys and have reacted very differently.  It’s important to continue following these birds over a number of years to gain a good understanding of migrations in different environmental conditions."

The Broads Authority, a vital contributor to the project are one of our Cuckoo Champions and have named one of the Cuckoos, Nelson. Andrea Kelly of the Authority said, “We asked members of the public to name our sponsored cuckoo. Nelson was the winning name. Nelson the famous Admiral was a Norfolk man and one of Britain's greatest heroes. He was brought up in Norfolk and travelled many thousands of miles full of danger and risk to life, very much like Nelson the Cuckoo.”

For the cost of a satellite tag (£3,000) anyone can name the remaining Cuckoo, or you can sponsor your favourite for just £10.  Follow their journeys at

Notes for Editors

  1. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations.
  2. The BTO Cuckoo tracking project is funded by Project Sponsors Essex and Suffolk Water, BBC Wildlife Fund and The Sound Approach in addition to BTO Cuckoo sponsors, BTO Cuckoo Champions and BTO supporters.This is the third year of the project and the Broads Authority, Devon Birdwatching & Preservation Society, Dartmoor National Park Authority and Sussex Ornithological Society have all become Cuckoo Champions, supporting the project and naming some of the new recruits of 2013.
  3. Anyone can follow the project or sponsor their favourite Cuckoo on the BTO website at

Contact Details

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2013-21

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews.
Please contact us to book an interview
Office: 01842 750050

Related content