The sad demise of Stanley

09 Jun 2016 | No. 2016-19

In May 2014, Stanley the Cuckoo had a satellite tag fitted by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), joining a cohort of birds that would hopefully provide information to help to slow down, or reverse the dramatic decline the species is experiencing.

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On 31 May, 2014, Stanley became a researcher for his kind, having a state of the art satellite tag fitted whilst on his breeding grounds close to Cranwich Heath, Norfolk. Since then he has completed two whole migration cycles, leaving Britain in the early summer close to the Dover straits and heading southeast through France, before flying out across the Mediterranean near to Marseille, arriving in Africa on the Algerian coast, close to the border with Tunisia.

From here he undertook the hazardous crossing of the Sahara desert, four times in all, before making his way to his winter location in the Congo rainforest. The return journey took him on a very different route - out to West Africa, flying through Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast before turning north and heading for Cranwich via Morocco, Spain and France. During his two years wearing a satellite tag he has travelled around 30,000km (18,000 miles) just on migration, not taking into account all the flying around chasing female Cuckoos whilst here in Norfolk.

So, it was very sad when we received news last week of a bird's leg bearing a BTO metal ring, found on a track in Thetford Forest near Feltwell. The unique number on the ring confirmed that this leg was Stanley's, making it highly likely that he had been killed.

Paul Stancliffe of the BTO said, “It is always sad when we lose one of our Cuckoos but for us Stanley was the local bird, being tagged so close to our headquarters here in Thetford, and so it was doubly sad. We were very excited when he returned this spring and he seemed to be doing very well, covering a large area of the northern part of the forest. We can only assume he was taken by a predator of some sort. Although a very sad end to a magnificent bird, the information that Stanley has given us helps us to understand the pressures our Cuckoos are facing.”

There are currently four satellite tagged Cuckoos at large, two in Wales and two in northwest England, and during the next couple of weeks the BTO will be fitting tags to a further eight birds, in the Midlands, the fens and Thetford Forest. Anyone can follow these birds as they begin to make their way back to Africa in the next few weeks at

Notes for Editors

  1. To find out more about the Cuckoo project please visit
  2. 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

Contact Details

Dr Viola Ross-Smith
(BTO Communications Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: viola.ross-smith [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2016-19

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