First BTO cuckoo back on UK soil


The first Common Cuckoo from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Cuckoo Tracking Project to arrive back in the UK has reached its breeding grounds in Wales.

The bird, named 'JAC', arrived near the Welsh town of Llangollen over the weekend of 22-23 April, marking the end of an extraordinary 12,000-km round trip between the UK and the rainforests of central Africa, where JAC and the other BTO cuckoos spent the winter.

JAC is one of more than 100 Common Cuckoos to have been fitted with a lightweight satellite tag by BTO scientists investigating the behaviour of these remarkable birds. The project, now in its 12th year, has revealed the different routes the species takes on migration and a range of factors that may be responsible for its decline in the UK. More than a third of UK cuckoos have been lost since the mid-1990s.

'JAC' is the first BTO cuckoo to make it back to UK breeding grounds in 2023 (Neil Calbrade).

After spending the winter in the Democratic Republic of Congo, JAC began his long journey back to the UK on 22 February. First he flew almost 2,000 km north-west to Nigeria and then another 1,400 km west to Guinea, where he spent a month feeding up in preparation for the arduous Sahara crossing ahead. JAC's non-stop flight over the world's largest desert came at the end of March, after which he arrived in his next staging area, the mountains of southern Spain. 

JAC was tagged in June 2021 close to where he is currently. He is named in loving memory of Professor Jenny Clack, a palaeontologist widely acknowledged as the leading authority on the evolution of land vertebrates from fish. The name was chosen by Jenny's husband Rob, who said: "It seemed appropriate I should contribute to this important scientific study of cuckoos in memory of a top-class scientist, whom I adored."

You can follow all the BTO Cuckoos and learn more about the project at www.bto.org/cuckoos.