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Eleven Cuckoos tagged in UK, Scotland and Wales – The Class of 2012


Over the last month, BTO scientists have visited the Norfolk Broads, the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park in Scotland, and Tregaron bog in Wales to tag and follow further Cuckoos. Eleven new birds have joined the ranks alongside Chris and Lyster, including two male Cuckoos from Norfolk. This year we will be following a new set of stories; will the Scottish and Welsh birds leave at a different time to our English Cuckoos? Or perhaps take a different route, or even winter in a different location?

Chris, one of the class of 2011, is the first Cuckoo to leave the UK and is currently in Belgium, close to the Netherlands border. Having been recorded back in the UK on 1st May 2012 in Essex, he quickly moved back to Thetford Forest, the area where he was originally tagged. He remained in this area until 9th June when we had a series of poor-quality fixes. These were inconclusive but when he transmitted again on 11th June he was near the town of Hoogstraten in Belgium. How long is summer? Well for Chris it was less than 6 weeks!

It's interesting to note that Chris was the first bird to leave the area in which he was tagged last yearsome time between 3rd and 5th June 2011moving down to Sussex for a few days. He then turned up in the Netherlands approximately 20km (12 miles) NNE of Maastricht on 17th June 2011. His current movement took him on the correct bearing to reach the same staging area as last year but he stopped approximately 85km short. Will he end up in the same place this year?

TheCommon Cuckoo - Cuculus canorus

The Common Cuckoo - Cuculus canorus – formerly European Cuckoo is a widespread summer migrant to Europe, Asia and winters in Africa. Breeds across Eurasia, in the non-breeding season it heads south it to sub-Saharan Africa.


Adult males are slate-grey with barred underparts. The iris, orbital ring, the base of the bill and short legs and feet are yellow. Grey adult females have a pinkish-buff or buff background to the barring and neck sides. Rufous phase adult females have reddish-brown upperparts with dark grey or black bars. Common Cuckoos in their first autumn have variable plumage. Some are have strongly-barred chestnut-brown upperparts, while others are plain grey. Rufous-brown birds have heavily-barred upperparts with some feathers edged with creamy-white.


The male's call, goo-ko, is usually given from an open perch. The female has a loud bubbling call.


Diet consists of insects, especially hairy caterpillars.


Common Cuckoos first breed at two years old. The Common Cuckoo is a brood parasite. It lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. At the appropriate moment, the hen cuckoo flies down to the host's nest, pushes one egg out, lays an egg and flies off. The whole process takes about 10 seconds. A female may visit up to 50 nests during a breeding season. The chick hatches after 11–13 days. It methodically evicts all host progeny from host nests. It is a much larger bird than its hosts, and needs to monopolise the food supplied by the parents. The chick will roll the other eggs out of the nest by pushing them with its back over the edge.

Conservation Status – Least concern

Not threatened, in fact it is widespread and common in Southern Africa. In the UK a marked decline in numbers.


Cuckoos can be seen throughout the UK, but are especially numerous in southern and central England. Adults arrive in late March or April and depart in July or August, with young birds leaving a month or so later.

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