Three years ago the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) fitted a satellite tag to a cuckoo named Chris in the hope that this bird would provide answers for the dramatic decline of his species in the UK.
Little did they know just how much they would learn from Chris, who is named after the television presenter Chris Packham.
Since May 2011, when the tag was fitted on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, this cunning little cuckoo has successfully crossed the Sahara desert six times and managed to clock up an incredible 47,000km on his migratory flights to and from the Congo Rainforest.
He has aided scientists in the discovery of where British cuckoos spend the winter and their journey through West Africa back to the UK for spring.
Through Chris’ movements, scientists have also identified the Po valley in northern Italy as an important site for resting and for feeding up and preparing for the southward crossing of the desert, the most demanding and dangers part of his migration.
Chris, who is at least four years old, is still transmitting information to scientists at the BTO. On Friday 25 April of this year he was back at the spot very close to where the tag was fitted three years ago, having left Sierra Leone on 11 April.
He will most likely be staying in the Suffolk area for the next six weeks or so before starting his journey back to the Congo.
The lead scientist on the project, Dr Phil Atkinson, says, ‘it is fantastic that Chris has given us so much information over the last three years.
‘However, it isn’t over yet. The technology used to track our cuckoos is cutting edge, and whilst we think that Chris’s tag might stop transmitting in the coming year, we really don’t know as this is the first time these tags have been used and they might last longer than we currently think.’
You can follow the BTO cuckoos as they make their amazing journey back to their breeding sites in the UK at www.bto.org/cuckoos
For more information on Chris, please click here.
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