Wroxham & Coltishall

Name the Broads Cuckoo!

Just Regional
May 14, 2013 5 mins read

The familiar call of the cuckoo heralds the start of spring. But for how much longer?

The species is one of the UK’s fastest declining migrants with 50% of cuckoos having been lost and the bird is now on the red alert list.

Now for the first time the Broads Authority is teaming up with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to try to solve the mystery of why English, and particularly Broads cuckoos are declining faster than cuckoos in Wales and Scotland.


The Authority is sponsoring the tagging of a male cuckoo with a satellite-tracking device to follow his 10,000 mile journey from the Broads to Africa in June and his flight back next spring to see what problems he meets along the way. He is one of six male Broads cuckoos and 15 in Britain which are being tagged.


The Authority wants the public to name the Broads cuckoo, which was caught and tagged on Burgh Common,  near Great Yarmouth,  which is owned by one of the sponsors, Essex & Suffolk Water, on Sunday May 12th. The Authority is offering a prize of a trip for a family of four aboard one of its three trip boats.


Andrea Kelly, Senior Ecologist for the Broads said: “This is a really exciting opportunity for people to get involved in supporting ground breaking research. We work hard to enhance wildlife in the Broads, but species such as cuckoos need stepping stones of wild spaces all the way to the Congo basin in Africa where they spend the winter. This project is helping our understanding of the Broads connection to global issues.


“Cuckoos spend most of their time out of the UK, so even though we think of them as iconic birds of the UK countryside, they in fact depend on what’s happening in Africa and along their migration route. We don’t have a great deal of information about where our cuckoos go, so to help them survive we need to find out about their stop over locations, routes and timings in the UK.


“Last year our cuckoos experienced drought and wild fires in Spain, and three of our tagged cuckoos perished. So when they are with us in the Broads it is essential for them to find plenty of food to lay down the body condition required for their long flight back to Africa, which can start as early as June.


“The national park network linking France, Italy and Spain to the Broads act like stepping stones, providing places for many migrating species to refuel, breed and enable them to avoid the effects of climate change and impoverished farmed landscapes.”


Dr. Chris Hewson, Senior Research Ecologist, BTO’s International Research Team, said: “The project is really important because before we started it, we knew very little about cuckoo migration, especially during the large part of the year that they spend in Africa.


So far we’ve learnt a lot about the routes they take and where they spend the winter. We now know, for instance, that British cuckoos spend the winter in the Congo basin, mostly in the western part, but that they take very different routes to get there.


“More than half of the birds that we’ve tagged in East Anglia (but none that we’ve tagged elsewhere) have taken a previously unsuspected western route, via Iberia, rather than leaving Europe in a south-easterly direction as most cuckoos do. We need to tag more cuckoos in the region to find out just how prevalent this unusual route is and, in view of the steep population decline in the region, whether it is associated with lower survival than other routes. Every cuckoo we tag helps to add valuable information to build up the picture of what’s going on with this species and, we hope, to eventually help to formulate plans to reverse its population decline.”

To enter the Broads Authority’s cuckoo competition think of a name which reflects the Broads and send your entries by email to cuckooname@broads-authority.gov.uk with the reason for choosing the name.


The winner will be offered a trip on the Authority’s solar boat ‘Ra’ at Whitlingham Country Park, its wildlife water trail aboard an electric boat at How Hill National Nature Reserve, or its Edwardian style launch at Hoveton..


The BTO is catching and tagging the cuckoos over the next few weeks. You can follow the day to day positions of the cuckoos on line at www.bto.org/cuckoos.  Each tag costs £3,000, but you can donate to the project for a little as a few pounds.



For further information contact: Hilary Franzen, Press Officer, on 01603 610734; mob: 07775 563030; email: hilary.franzen@broads-authority.gov.uk; Andrea Kelly, 01603 756015; mobile: 07711451503 or the BTO press officer email: paul.stancliffe@bto.org.

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