British Cuckoo completes 22,000 mile odyssey in record time!


A Cuckoo called Carlton II has just arrived back in England having spent the last ten months travelling to and from the Congo rainforest, becoming the first of the BTO’s satellite tracked cuckoos to return to this country in 2020. 

Aided by favourable southerly winds, he completed the last leg of his mammoth journey in record time, Ivory Coast to southern England in seven days. In doing so, he leap-frogged two other tracked cuckoos, named PJ and Senan, currently stopping over in Spain and North Africa respectively.

Carlton II was fitted with a high-tech satellite tag in May 2018, by scientists from the British Trust for Ornithology at SWT Carlton Marshes, Suffolk, to allow them to follow his every move. We have lost almost three-quarters of our breeding Cuckoos during the last 25 years and, as Cuckoos spend more time outside of the UK that they do in it, it is vital to understand where they go, the journey they take to get there, and any pressures they face that might be contributing to their decline.

Carlton II spends the summers in Suffolk and the winters in Gabon, Central Africa, and travels over 5,500 miles between the two, dodging many hazards, such as high winds, sand and hailstorms, ferocious thunderstorms, drought and lengthy sea-crossings. Since having his tag fitted Carlton II has flown over 22,000 miles on his migration.

Dr Chris Hewson, BTO lead scientist on the project:

“It is great to see Carlton II getting back to the UK so quickly. Taking just a week to cover more than three thousand miles from Liberia to Berkshire is an awesome feat and something even  swifts don’t manage. This shows us just how quickly these harbingers of spring can get here from tropical Africa when conditions for their journey are good It’s a journey so full of hazards that it’s always a relief when they get back,  no matter how fast or slow. These Cuckoos have taught us so much about their lives, giving answers but also raising more questions as to what might be behind their decline.”

Anyone can watch the Cuckoos as they make their incredible journeys at: