Since being fitted with a satellite tag by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) four years ago, Chris, a Cuckoo named after naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham, has travelled over 60,000 miles – the equivalent of flying twice round the world. And in his journeys he’s taken in 22 different countries!
The UK’s Cuckoo population has dropped by 72 per cent in the last 25 years. In order to find out what’s driving this decline, the BTO fitted an original five Cuckoos with state of the art tags to enable them to follow the birds as they made their way out of Britain to Africa for the winter. The tags were believed to have a lifespan of two or three years.
Of the first five, Chris is the only Cuckoo still transmitting live data, far exceeding the expectations of the scientists. He is currently in the Congo rainforest, having arrived at his favoured winter spot on 25 October.
Dr Chris Hewson, lead scientist on the project at the BTO, says, “Chris the Cuckoo is a real hero of ornithology. The tag he is carrying has helped us to understand the pressures that he and our Cuckoos face on what is a pretty hazardous migration to Africa.
“He has survived sand storms, hail storms, an exceptionally cold, wet summer, predators over the Mediterranean and in the Congo rainforest, and has crossed the Sahara Desert a whopping seven times since we started following him. We have everything crossed in the hope that he makes it back next spring.”
Chris Packham says, “Chris deserves a medal for what he has given to the understanding of bird migration; he is a truly remarkable bird.