Return of Cuckoo Chris helps scientists learn more about migration

Return of Cuckoo Chris helps scientists learn more about migration

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The return to Britain of a Cuckoo with a tracking tag is helping scientists learn more about the species' migration patterns throughout the year.

Chris, named after the BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packham, came back to Suffolk last week (April 29th) for the fifth year in a row and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has been busy analysing data from his satellite tag.

This was fitted back in 2011 and has shown that since then, Chris has crossed the Sahara Desert eight times, reached speeds of 60mph and either flown over or visited an astonishing 28 different countries.

Lead scientist on the project Dr Chris Hewson said the Cuckoo is now five years old, which is quite impressive for his kind, as the oldest on record is seven.

"We had everything crossed for Chris to make it back again this year and give us another complete migration route, and he hasn't let us down. The information this remarkable bird has given us is unparalleled," he commented.

The expert added that among the invaluable information has been data about the routes that Cuckoos take to get to their winter homes in the Congo rainforest, which had hitherto been a mystery.

"He deserves a medal for his massive contribution to science," Dr Hewson enthused.

It comes after it was revealed earlier in April that two more tagged Cuckoos had made it back to the UK after over-wintering in Africa.

Hennah got back on April 15th, having last been heard from in Sierra Leone on February 9th. The BTO believes there may be a problem with his tag that led to a gap in the information being sent back, so this should be fixed before Hennah leaves again.

Shortly afterwards came Dudley, who got back to Sherwood Forest on April 16th.

Cuckoos have declined by 73 per cent over the past 25 years and ornithologists are going to use the data from the tags to try to work out why there has been such a significant reduction in populations.