BTO scientists are at the forefront of using new technologies to track birds and have gained great experience during the last decade, deploying devices on a number of bird species, including Cuckoos. The BTO is sharing this expertise and building capacity with partners across the globe.
Beijing Cuckoo Project
In spring 2016 BTO helped Birding Beijing to catch and fit satellite tags to Cuckoos in China. This pioneering project combines science and public engagement mirroring the BTO’s Cuckoo tracking project. It will fill in gaps in the lifecycle of the cuckoos that breed in and pass through China, in particular identifying their currently unknown winter grounds. At the same time, the Chinese public will be able to engage with the project, following ‘their’ cuckoos on the internet.
South-east Asia, India and Indonesia are all possible wintering grounds for China’s Cuckoos, but even more exciting is the idea that these birds could winter somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, possibly in the far south. If this is the case it could involve an overland route similar to the pekinensis swifts tracked from Beijing or a trans-Oceanic journey similar to the one made by Amur Falcons from India to East Africa. Either way, it would involve a mind-blowing migration.
The team, which included members from Belgium and Sweden as well as China and the UK, tagged five cuckoos in the Beijing area in May 2016. Three were males, likely of the local race bakeri, but two females tagged were relative large and were thought at the time to possibly be of the nominate race canorus (the same as UK birds) which breeds to the north. This was subsequently confirmed when these birds continued migrating north, across Mongolia and into Russia.
Cuckoos in Germany and Belarus
With financial support from the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), BTO, together with LBV and APB caught and tagged 14 Cuckoos (9 in Germanty and 5 in Belarus). BTO scientist Chris Hewson flew out to help catch and tag Cuckoos near to the city of Regensburg in Bavaria and Phil Atkinson visited APB in Belarus with LBV and RSPB. During these visits, Friederike Herzog was trained to fit tags safely as part of her PhD studies on the ecology and migration of Cuckoos.
In 2014 we received funding from The Sound Approach and suported the APB's Bird of the Year campaign in Belarus by fitting 10 satellite tags to Belarusian cuckoos. Their movements can be seen here and, together the UK and German birds, we can follow all these birds on their migratory journeys. Details of each bird's journey (including their own blogs) can be found on each organisation's website.