Britain’s most famous cuckoo has returned to his breeding grounds in Suffolk, 55,000 miles and four years after he was first tagged at Santon Downham.
He is named after Springwatch’s Chris Packham, who is president of the Thetford based British Trust for Ornithology which is running the satellite tagging project. Chris, the cuckoo that is, is the last surviving member of the first batch of birds tagged in June 2011.
Before the project nobody knew where cuckoos wintered or how they got there. Since it started Chris alone has flown over, or visited, twenty-eight different countries, crossed the Sahara Desert eight times and reached speeds of up to 60mph. Chris has also been on television, having been located using his tag last year so he could meet his namesake.
We now know they winter in West Africa and fly there either across Spain or down the Rhone Valley.
Dr Chris Hewson, lead scientist on the project at the BTO, said, “Chris was one-year old when we fitted the satellite-tag, which makes him five-years old now, and quite an age for a Cuckoo; the oldest we have on record is almost seven.
“The tag was also given a life of two-to-three years, so that is getting quite old too. 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.”
Chris, who wintered in Angola, did the 1,550 miles desert crossing from Mali to in Spain in two days, arriving in Europe on April 22. By April 26 he had covered the 670 miles to the Isle of Wight and a signal today shows him cuckooing around Cavenham Heath.
See Chris’ epic journey and where he is now at www.bto.org