The amazing story of a bird, who travelled over 40,000 miles across the world from the heart of Lancashire, has been released by the British Trust for Ornithology as part of its research to find out why numbers of that particular species are becoming so rare.
'Larry' was an adult male cuckoo who was caught and tagged in June, 2015 in Stocks Reservoir in the Forest of Bowland.
Once cuckoos headed off on migration, very little was known about the routes they took or where they spent the
winter. The development of solar-powered satellite tags weighing only five grams now enables migrant cuckoos to be tracked. The tags transmit for 10 hours and then go into sleep mode while a solar panel recharges the battery, allowing the bird’s position to be determined every three days or so via the Argos satellite.
Licensed bird ringer Mark Breaks from Newton in Bowland was involved in catching 'Larry' together with scientists from the BTO. Information from Larry’s tag and that of some 60 other cuckoos has now revealed the routes they take on their autumn migration to Africa, where they spend the winter and the routes back to Britain in the spring.
This information is being used to look for possible reasons for the drastic fall in the cuckoo numbers.
The chances of hearing the first cuckoo in spring is becoming rarer as the English cuckoo population has fallen by two thirds over the past 25 years and the species is on the red list of conservation concern.
As with many other summer migrants, the reasons for this may or may not lie in this country.
The satellite data shows that in 2015 Larry went via Hungary, Croatia, Italy, Libya, over the Sahara Desert to Chad and then via the Congo rainforest to winter in northern Angola. His return in spring, 2016 was more westerly, via Nigeria, Niger, Algeria, Sardinia and France then back to the Forest of Bowland.
He has followed a similar route every year since.Each of Larry’s round trips involved flying at least 16,000km /10,000 miles. As he was already an adult when caught, he must have made at least five such round trips before perishing part way through his final journey, a remarkable achievement for a bird weighing just 130 grams or just four-and-a-half ounces.
This year Larry arrived in northern Libya some time before July 29th. A signal from his tag six days later showed that he had not moved from this arrival location.
Trust experts have concluded that there is no way Larry could have survived that long in the arid desert conditions, so he must have perished there. This is especially sad news as he was the BTO’s longest surviving active
cuckoo and entering his fifth year of tracking.