International Cuckoo tracking projects

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

While we continue to receive signals from the 2016 Chinese Cuckoos, their route and last position can be seen above. Arrows indicate the direction of their migration.

Team Cuckoo - Birding Beijing with Chris Hewson

Birding Beijing 'Team Cuckoo' with Chris Hewson

Follow the Beijing Cuckoo Project on the Birding Beijing website, and consider supporting the project by donating

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.

The Chinese Cuckoo tracking project has been supported by the Zoological Society of London, Oriental Bird Club and British Birds charitable foundation.

Cuckoos in Germany and Belarus

UK and European Cuckoo routes

Example routes of Cuckoos from the UK, Germany and Belarus

BTO is part of an exciting European collaboration with the Landesbund für Vogelschutz (LBV) and BirdLife Belarus (APB) to understand more about the continent-wide movements of the Cuckoo. 

With financial support from the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), in 2013 BTO, together with LBV and APB caught and tagged 14 Cuckoos (9 in Germany 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 satellite tags to a further 10 Belarusian cuckoos.

Details about the German project are still available on their website. Ocassional updates about the Belarus project may be found on their website.