Cuckoos reveal mystery migration route

Common cuckoo in flight. ©Sergey Yeliseev

Three common cuckoos (Cuculus canorus) recently made an extraordinary journey across three continents, revealing the species’ previously unknown winter migration route. The birds, named Flappy McFlapperson, Skybomb Bolt, and Meng zhi juan, were fitted with satellite trackers in Beijing, China and monitored by the Beijing Cuckoo Project. Many anticipated the birds’ journey would end in southern Asia or India, but Skybomb defied expectations when he flew non-stop for four days over the Indian Ocean – more than 2,300 miles – to arrive in Somalia. Flappy reached Africa a few days after Skybomb, but took a more cautious route along the Arabian peninsula coastline. Meng zhi juan remains close to the west coast of India, possibly about to start his own flight to Africa.

Researchers expect the birds will return to the Beijing region in May.

A similar study is using satellite tags to track mangrove cuckoos (Coccyzus minor) in Florida. The Avian Research and Conservation Institute is hoping to learn more about the species’ unknown seasonal movements.

Read more about the Beijing cuckoos at The New York Times and the mangrove cuckoo study at the Santiva Chronicle