Five cuckoos, one Oriental Cuckoo and four Common Cuckoos (they look very similar but sound different and are different species) were fitted with transmitters in June last year around the Khurkh Bird Banding Centre in Northern Mongolia. These birds take advantage of the explosion of insects in the summer in Siberia to breed. By autumn, they fly to warmer places and their long-distance flights are mostly by night. Since 2009, these birds have been on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern.
The transmitters, which fit as small backpacks, send signals that satellites orbiting the Earth pick up. This helps scientists trace the flight path of the birds, which migrate not in groups but often as solitary travellers. On occasion, small groups may also be found.
The project, a partnership between the Wildlife Science and Conservation Centre of Mongolia, the British Trust for Ornithology and Birding Beijing, seeks a deeper understanding of the flight of the birds, to determine the reasons for the decline in their numbers.
In the UK, in the past 20 years, cuckoo numbers have declined by over half, the website of the British Trust for Ornithology explains. The cuckoo tracking project is also an attempt to foster greater involvement of local communities in conservation.
Schoolchildren in Mongolia were encouraged to name the birds irds fitted with transmitters, all of which were male. They were named Nomad (the Oriental Cuckoo), Captain Khurkh, Namja (storyteller in Mongolian folklore), Bayan (Mongolian for ‘prosper’) and Onon (the name of a local river).