Flappy McFlapperson Mèng zhī juān
Note: on the map above, as of March 2017, the return journeys from Africa are denoted by pale tracks – pink for Flappy and light blue for Meng. The map shows only active cuckoos.
Welcome to The Beijing Cuckoo Project! Background information about the project can be found below and updates appear here on a regular basis. We are extremely grateful to the sponsors – ZSL, Oriental Bird Club, British Birds Charitable Foundation and BirdLife International – for funding the purchase of the satellite tags and getting the project off the ground. However, we still need more funding to pay for the ongoing “satellite services”, so a dedicated JustGiving page has been set up to receive donations. All contributions, no matter how big or small, are gratefully received!
Introducing the Beijing Cuckoos…. (click on the photos to find out more background and to access their individual updates)
In July we ran a poll to see where readers thought the cuckoos would spend the winter. These were the results. Thanks to everyone who voted!
46% SE Asia
7% Somewhere else
21 May 2017
Flappy has progressed another 1,000+km and is now in Chongqing Municipality, home to more than 30 million people! Must be a far cry from remote northern Mozambique. Now only 1,300km to go to reach Beijing.
20 May 2017
Meng is home! A signal from his tag this morning puts him in the middle of Yeyahu Wetland Reserve in northwest Beijing, just a few hundred metres from the place where he was fitted with a tag almost exactly one year ago. At that time, we had no idea that, in 12 months, he would fly around 25,000km from Beijing to Mozambique and back. Isn’t nature amazing?
18 May 2017
Now it’s Meng‘s turn for the limelight. After a few days of radio silence, we’ve picked up a signal from his tag showing he’s in Hebei! That’s more than 2,000km from his previous position in Yunnan Province and just over 300km from his original tagging location at Yeyahu Wetland Reserve. He’s almost home!
16 May 2017
Flappy is in China! A 600km move east, modest by her standards, means she’s crossed the border from Myanmar into Yunnan Province, SW China. She’s now less than 200km from Meng‘s most recent position! Meanwhile, the first Common Cuckoos have been heard in Beijing and surrounding Hebei Province.
15 May 2017
Flappy is breaking all sorts of records. We’ve just picked up her signal in Myanmar! She’s flown another 2,000km so that’s more than 6,500km in 6 days. Unbelievable.
13 May 2017 @ 0400 UK time
Flappy is still going! After crossing the Arabian Sea and making landfall in Pakistan, she’s continued NE, crossing the Thar Desert into India and is now in Uttar Pradesh. That’s nearly 4,500km in 3.5 days with most of that across an ocean and a desert. We’re in awe.
12 May 2017 @ 1000 UK time
Flappy has made it!! She’s successfully crossed the Arabian Sea and has made landfall in Pakistan. What a bird. However, despite her heroics, she still has more than 6,000km to go to reach last summer’s breeding ground. Incredible.
12 May 2017 @ 0030 UK time
Flappy has flown through the night and is now 2,700km from her previous position in Ethiopia and only 350km from landfall in Pakistan! All being well, she should complete the crossing in the next few hours. Fingers crossed.
11 May 2017 @ 1656 UK time.
We’ve received a few more signals from Flappy‘s tag. She’s still going, hugging the Omani coast as she heads NE. Will she continue on this trajectory across the ocean to make landfall in Pakistan or India? Or will she head back to the coast for the night? Hopefully we’ll receive some more signals soon….
11 May 2017
Flappy is over the Arabian Sea! Almost a week after Meng touched down in India, Flappy is making her own sea crossing and, again, she appears to be taking a more northerly route. The signal from today puts her 1,600km NE of her previous position in Ethiopia, around 85km off the coast of Oman. Go Flappy!
9 May 2017
7 May 2017
After Meng‘s mammoth journey from Somalia to India, across the Arabian Sea, we expected him to rest for a few days to refuel. However, in a show of astonishing stamina, he’s continued another 2,400km and is now in Yunnan Province, southwest China! He’s travelled more than 6,400km in 6 days.
5 May 2017
Meng is in India! After 4 days of radio silence, we’ve picked up a signal from Meng’s transmitter that puts him in Madhya Pradesh, central northern India. Since the last signal, on 1 May, he’s travelled 4,500km, including a 3,000km non-stop journey across the Arabian Sea. The Beijing Cuckoos continue to amaze…
In the meantime, Flappy has headed further north, poised for her own return sea crossing. Will she take a more northerly route, involving a shorter sea crossing, as she did in the autumn?
1 May 2017 evening update
This afternoon we received the first signal from Meng‘s tag for over a week. The transmission puts him in Somalia.. and his trajectory is remarkably similar to Flappy’s. The two remain neck and neck with less than 100km separating them!
1 May 2017
Flappy is on the move again! She’s flown around 400km northeast, crossing the Equator in the process, and is now in Somalia, around 300km west of Mogadishu. There’s been no signal from Meng since 25 April but we’re not too worried as, before a long migration, these birds often spend much of their time on the ground under cover feeding up for the journey. Hopefully it simply means he’s getting fat!
29 April 2017
The Diplomat has published this article on the return of Flappy..
27 April 2017
No significant movement over the last 7 days.. Flappy and Meng still neck and neck in Kenya..! Conditions are good for a sea crossing with southwesterly winds assisting a flight to India.. so we expect them to push on very soon.
20 April 2017
19 April 2017
Flappy has joined the fun! She’s begun her return journey by heading 1,300km north-northeast to northeastern Tanzania. Meng is continuing his journey and is now in southeastern Kenya. Both have at least 10,000km still to go to return ‘home’.
11 April 2017
This is what we have been waiting for. The first Beijing Cuckoo begins its return journey and it’s Meng. He’s moved NNE and is now 250km ENE of Flappy! We have everything crossed that he makes it back to Beijing. Will he retrace his steps or take a different route?
30 March 2017
Still no sign of movement by Flappy and Meng, both seemingly happy to remain in Mozambique for the time being.. We’re expecting them back in Beijing in around 7-8 weeks… it’s a long and arduous journey, so it’s likely they will begin soon..
15 March 2017
Both Flappy and Meng remain in Mozambique. When will they begin their return journey? We expect the more northerly breeder, Flappy, to begin her journey after Meng, given conditions in Mongolia will remain unsuitable well into May. Will they retrace their flaps or take a different route? Watch this space!
5 March 2017
Meng has moved another 75km south, entering the Province of Inhambane. Interesting to compare with the UK cuckoos who are now on the edge of the Sahara poised for their northward crossing.
27 February 2017
The map below shows the latest positions of Meng and Flappy, both seemingly happy in Mozambique, whilst the UK-tagged cuckoos are well on their way north!
When will they begin to head north? It’s notable that most cuckoos arrive in the UK in April whereas peak arrival in Beijing is in the last week of May. You can follow the progress of the UK-tagged cuckoos on the special page on the BTO’s website.
18 February 2017
Well worth a read. An excellent article about the Beijing Cuckoos by Tyler Roney in The World of Chinese.
9 February 2017
Meng continues to head south.. and is now around 400km due south of Flappy. Mozambique is clearly an important wintering ground for Beijing’s cuckoos!
7 February 2017
Meng is still heading south! He’s moved another 180km south-southwest. How far will he go?
6 February 2017
Analysis of the last signals from SKYBOMB BOLT’s tag shows that he probably died on 19 November. For more detail, including a tribute to this pioneering cuckoo see: In celebration of Skybomb.
4 February 2017
Meng has just made another move south-southwest, of more than 800km, into Mozambique. He is now the most southerly of the Beijing Cuckoos, overtaking Flappy, who remains in her favoured position around 200km to the northwest. This southerly move is particularly interesting given the first UK cuckoos are already in West Africa on their way north!
31 January 2017
Meng has just moved another 75km south and is now close to the border with Mozambique. Flappy is clearly enjoying her time in northwest Mozambique and has spent the last two weeks in broadly the same area.
17 January 2017
Meng moves another 250km south-southwest within Tanzania and Flappy edges 50km northwest in Mozambique, the latter likely a local movement in response to local conditions rather than the beginning of a northward migration. Still nothing from Skybomb.
15 January 2017
Flappy is still heading south! Another 450km south-southwest, crossing the border with Malawi and then back into Mozambique, her 19th and 20th border crossings since being fitted with a tag! Meng remains in Tanzania and still radio silence from Skybomb.
10 January 2017
At the invitation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Terry presented the Beijing Cuckoo and Swift Projects to academics, students and staff at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens in Yunnan Province. Now discussing potential joint projects.
4 January 2017
After a relatively quiet couple of weeks, Flappy has made another move south, crossing her 18th border, and is now in northern Mozambique. Meng is still in Tanzania. We have heard nothing from Skybomb for more than 3 weeks, which is a little worrying. We hope he is simply in dense forest, meaning that either the battery isn’t charging or the signal isn’t penetrating the canopy. Fingers crossed we pick up his signal again soon.
24 December 2016
Meng has flown a further 180km to the south and is now in the Tanzanian state of Lindi. After the winter solstice, how long will it be before the Beijing Cuckoos begin to move north?
23 December 2016
Meng has joined Flappy in Tanzania.. Overnight he has crossed Kenya and is now in the Tanzanian state of Pwani, just 300km east of Flappy. Although the software shows the route on the map as a straight line between the two most recent positions, it is likely that he took a more ‘scenic’ route following the coastline.
20 December 2016
Another move from Flappy. She’s just crossed her 17th border since being fitted with a tag and is now in central Tanzania. Meng is still on the Somali coast (visible on the map below) and Skybomb is still in northern Mozambique.
15 December 2016
Meng has moved another 300km southwest and, although still in Somalia, is now only 350km east of Flappy! No more news from Skybomb since his move to northern Mozambique but this is not unusual. Presumably he is spending most of his time feeding on the forest floor, meaning the signal from his tag may be impeded by the canopy and/or the battery may not be gaining much charge from the solar panel.
8 December 2016
Meng has flown another 350km southwest and is now around 100km west of Mogadishu in Somalia. This puts him around 650km from Flappy, who remains in Kenya.
In the meantime, a big thank you to Praveen from Koodu Magazine, India, for publishing an article on the Beijing Cuckoos in the local language of Malayalam.
“This is Praveen from India – and I am originally from the state of Kerala where Mèng zhī juān is hanging around. At present, I live in Bangalore, Karnataka. I write in a popular nature-magazine a regular column on birds in the local language (Malayalam) and this month we are covering Common Cuckoo, inspired by the Beijing cuckoo project and the unusual number of Common Cuckoo reports this year from southern India. I write to you to check if you can supply one image (300dpi or higher) of a tagged Cuckoo, preferably of Mèng zhī juān, as we plan to have a special box item on the Cuckoo journey, with the map. This magazine is read widely in Kerala, including a large number of students, hence this helps in a bit of awareness building on the remarkable journeys undertaken by these Cuckoos and birds in general.”
Thank you, Praveen!
7 December 2016
6 December 2016
Meng is in Africa! Some fresh locations this morning show that he made landfall in Somalia around midnight last night (China time). He’s then followed the coast to the southwest for another 750km! See his page for details.
We asked you to Tweet your reactions to Meng’s journey and promised to publish a sample here…
5 December 2016
1245 China time: Meng is only 450km from the island of Socotra! Keep going!
4 December 2016
It’s finally happening! 梦之鹃 (Mèng zhī juān), is making his move. As of 1430 China time today he is over the Arabian Sea! He is around 600km off the west coast of India and, on his current trajectory, has more than 2,000km to go to Somalia.. we have everything crossed he will make it! For more maps and latest weather, see his page.
2 December 2016
A wonderful moment.. Pupils at Dulwich International School burst into applause when they hear the story of SKYBOMB BOLT reaching Africa!
30 November 2016
Still no major moves by any of the cuckoos.. However, the Beijing Cuckoos are now famous in Russia! This article in the GBTimes (click picture for full article).
And the Beijing Cuckoos also featured in an article on The Wildlife Society’s website.
29 November 2016
No major movements in the last few days. However, we have two exciting pieces of news. First, we are delighted to announce that BirdLife International is now an official partner of the Beijing Cuckoo Project. Welcome! And second, we received some great news from Xinhua on 28th – the online Chinese version of their article about the Beijing Cuckoos has just received its millionth hit! Wow.
25 November 2016
Flappy is in Kenya! She’s flown more than 300km on a south-southwest bearing, crossing her 16th border, and the Equator, and is now in eastern Kenya.
24 November 2016
Still no major movements from the Beijing Cuckoos.. all as they were with Flappy in Somalia, Skybomb in northern Mozambique and Meng still close to the west coast of India. In the meantime, media coverage is expanding fast with articles in Xinhua, China’s largest news agency, and China Daily. And on 24th, Terry visited Yanqing No2 Middle School whose students named one of the cuckoos – Meng Zhi Juan – back in June. Terry updated them on the progress of the cuckoos, what we had learned so far and participated in a Q&A.
21 November 2016
No major movements to report. Skybomb and Flappy seemingly recovering from their exertions and Meng still in western India. In the meantime, the Beijing Cuckoos feature in the Qatar Tribune!
18 November 2016
No major changes in the positions of any of the cuckoos. However, we’ve just been sent the PDF of the New York Times international edition from 15th November featuring the Beijing Cuckoos on the FRONT PAGE! Now that is cool.
Download the full PDF, including the continuation of the feature on page 2.
The Beijing Cuckoo article was also selected as the “Article of the day” in the Learning Section of NYT.
17 November 2016
Flappy has moved another 100km, this time to the southeast, meaning she has made her 15th border crossing and is now back in Somalia. Skybomb remains in northern Mozambique and Meng is still on the west coast of India.
16 November 2016
It’s Flappy‘s turn! She’s moved 600km southwest and is now in northeastern Kenya.
2045 Beijing time update:
Skybomb is still moving.. just picked up his signal 300km south of yesterday’s position in Niassa Province. He’s now in Zambezia Province, still in Mozambique.
15 November 2016
Skybomb is still going! Just a couple of days after his equator crossing, he has moved again, more than 1,000km, across Tanzania, and is now in northern Mozambique. He’s flown more than 11,500km since leaving Beijing!
13 November 2016
Another milestone for the Beijing Cuckoo Project – SKYBOMB has moved south into Kenya and, during that journey, crossed the equator. He is the first tagged Beijing Cuckoo to appear in the southern hemisphere! Meanwhile, FLAPPY is still in Ethiopia and MENG still on the west coast of India.
11 November 2016
After the flurry of activity in the last few days of October and the first few days of November, it’s all quiet on the Beijing Cuckoo front with no further significant movements from Flappy, Skybomb or Meng. Flappy’s crossing from Somalia into Ethiopia was her 13th border crossing involving 11 countries since she was tagged in Beijing in May. And she didn’t apply for a single visa!
1900 Beijing time update: We’ve just received a new signal from MENG‘s tag that shows he has flown 400km to the south and is now less than 20km from the Indian coast in the State of Kerala. Is he about to make his sea crossing? See his page for details.
1930 update: The Beijing Cuckoos feature in an excellent article in the New York Times. Thanks to Chris Buckley, the NYT China Correspondent.
8 November 2016
No major movements from Flappy, Skybomb or Meng. As can be seen below, the winds aren’t optimal for Meng to make his sea crossing.. does he know there are crosswinds and waiting for a change?
Meanwhile, the Beijing Cuckoo Project features in Forbes Magazine!
And Terry was the guest at the first “Science Cafe” at The International School of Beijing, during which he briefed the pupils about the Beijing Cuckoo Project.
6 November 2016
8pm Beijing time: Flappy is now in Ethiopia! She’s headed southwest from the northern coast of Somalia and is now less than 500km from Skybomb, who has made a modest move to the south and is now c180km northeast of Mogadishu. Meanwhile, Meng is still in western India, presumably waiting for the right conditions to make his sea crossing. Weather and winds look good from Tuesday this week, so we expect him to make his move sometime after that.
A couple of new, accurate locations show that Flappy is making her way along the northern Somali coast as we suspected yesterday. Chris Hewson at BTO had this to say:
“Taking them (the new locations) together with the sensor data (tag temp & charge) and then cross-referencing to local conditions suggests the following scenario:
Meng and Skybomb remain in their previous locations. Meng is almost certainly preparing for his sea crossing and Skybomb is recovering from his!
Meanwhile, the Beijing Cuckoos feature in the Hindustan Times in India! Thank you to Vikram Jit Singh for this article.
5 November 2016
It’s Meng‘s turn! He’s heading towards Goa on the Indian coast… almost certainly about to attempt to cross the Arabian Sea, following Skybomb and Flappy…
And we have two new signals from Flappy’s tag that put her on the northern Somali coast.. they’re of unknown accuracy, so we’re not 100% sure they are correct but they look plausible… Hopefully we’ll receive confirmation of her location very soon.
4 November 2016
The latest signal from Flappy puts her at the northern end of Masirah Island, just off the coast of Oman. A non-stop journey of more than 2,000km and another phenomenal sea crossing by one of the Beijing Cuckoos. We’re not sure whether she has stopped on Masirah or was just passing… hopefully we’ll pick up another signal today. Great drama!
2030 Beijing time update: we’ve just picked up Flappy’s signal around 600km to the southwest and she’s still going! Currently 60km from the Yemen border on a southwest heading… going to the eastern Rift Valley in Ethiopia?
3 November 2016
Flappy is over the Arabian Sea! All being well she will make landfall in Oman very soon. She’s taken a more northerly trajectory than Skybomb but it’s still an amazing journey of more than 2,000km from her previous position in Uttar Pradesh. The second map below shows the sea-surface wind – seems as if she will have a nice ride into Oman! You can also see on this map that Meng is moving! He’s heading west from his previous position in Bangladesh and is now in northeast India. It’s all go!!!
1 November 2016
As if Skybomb’s exploits weren’t enough, Flappy is moving! She flew more than 300km to the southwest last night on a direct heading to the coast of Gujarat. Is she beginning her own African adventure?
If you are enjoying following the progress of the Beijing Cuckoos, please consider donating towards the costs of the satellite services, which are currently unfunded! See here.
31 October 2016
Skybomb is in Africa!! After a non-stop flight of more than 3,700km from central India, the latter part of which was tough with head- and side-winds, he’s reached Somalia and appears to be in a good feeding area, with recent rainfall. He’s the first Beijing Cuckoo to make this mammoth journey… and he must be exhausted.. what a bird!
If you are enjoying following the progress of the Beijing Cuckoos, please consider donating towards the costs of the satellite services, which are currently unfunded! See here.
30 October 2016
Skybomb has continued a remarkably true course and, as of 1530 UK time, is now less than 100km from Africa! With a 20km/h tail wind he should reach land just after dark…. Team Beijing Cuckoo has everything crossed…!
If you are enjoying following the progress of the Beijing Cuckoos, please consider donating towards the costs of the satellite services, which are currently unfunded! See here.
29 October 2016
Well, this is the moment we had been hoping for… one of the Beijing Cuckoos has made a BIG move.. and headed out over the Indian Ocean towards east Africa! It’s Skybomb. He has already flown more than 2,000km from his previous position in central India and, on this trajectory, has more than 1,000km to go to reach land in Somalia. An incredible moment. Team Beijing Cuckoo is in awe of these amazing birds…
27 October 2016
No major movements from any of the cuckoos in the last 10 days.. However, the weather patterns are changing and the wind direction off the west Indian coast is now favourable for a crossing to Africa… is that what the cuckoos have been waiting for? Or are they settling down in south Asia for the winter?
In the meantime, it was brilliant to receive the following photos from Angelina, a teacher in Hunan, who heard about Birding Beijing via a social media article and has been teaching her class about the wonders of bird migration, including the Beijing Swift and Beijing Cuckoo projects! Thank you Angelina!!
17 October 2016
Remarkably, Flappy has continued to backtrack and has now ‘retreated’ more than 1,000km! The map below shows her track over the last few days – from Jaipur to the Pakistan border, back to Jaipur and then back to Uttar Pradesh. Interesting analysis from BTO’s Chris Hewson on Flappy’s page.
16 October 2016
Flappy has made a u-turn! She’s returned more than 500km from her most recent position on the border with Pakistan and is now only 65km from her previous position close to Jaipur! Experience with UK cuckoos tells us that such an about turn is not unusual. It may indicate that the “new” area was unsuitable and so she has returned to the closest hospitable place she knows. Meanwhile, Skybomb and Meng remain in southern India and Bangladesh respectively.
12 October 2016
Flappy has flown right over Jaipur and is now another 500km southwest of her previous position on the border with Pakistan. Is she gearing up for a sea crossing? The next few days could be very exciting!
11 October 2016
Many thanks to @JoSunshineArt for sending me this photo of her painting of Flappy. Beautiful!!
10 October 2016
Flappy is on the move! After a stay in Uttar Pradesh she has now moved more than 350km southwest and is close to Jaipur in Rajasthan.
5 October 2016
Meng has moved another 800km west-northwest and is now on the southern coast of Bangladesh, very close to Skybomb’s location in mid-September.
We expect Flappy, Skybomb and Meng to stay in south Asia for the time being. The conditions are good with fresh rain and likely good feeding. The animation below shows the current winds and rainfall: not ideal for a bird wishing to cross into eastern Africa. In late October, the winds and rainfall pattern change with the winds turning northeast and the rains beginning in east Africa. That is when we expect them to make the crossing… but, of course, we are speculating and time will tell if this theory is correct.
3 October 2016 – update 2
Wow.. just a few minutes after posting Meng‘s weekend move to Guangxi Province, we received some good quality locations showing he is now in Myanmar! That’s a journey of more than 2,800km from his previous position in Hebei Province, northern China, comprising two x 1,400km ‘legs’.
3 October 2016
Mèng zhī juān has joined in the action! After spending several weeks in southern Hebei Province, on Saturday we picked him up in Guangxi Province, southern China! That’s a move of over 1,400km and, at least so far, appears to be following in Flappy‘s and Skybomb‘s footsteps. More on his page.
30 September 2016
Skybomb has moved another 200km, this time to the south, and is now less than 30km northeast of Hyderabad in Telanagana state. Flappy remains in northern Uttar Pradesh. Are they both waiting for the monsoon winds to change before heading to the coast and an awe-inspiring sea-crossing to Africa? Time will tell.
29 September 2016
The above map, showing the complete autumn migration routes of the active Beijing Cuckoos, will be updated daily. Thanks to Lyndon Kearsley for the creation!
Meanwhile, Skybomb has back-tracked 100km to his previous position in Telangana! Taking a step back is a reasonably common event in Cuckoo migration, as shown by the UK cuckoos. It may indicate the unsuitability of the new location, prompting a return to an area that is proven for food/shelter.
27 September 2016
Skybomb continues his Indian adventure. He’s state-hopped from Telangana to Maharashtra, about 100km west. Just hanging out or preparing for a sea-crossing to Africa? Meanwhile, Flappy continues her stay in Uttar Pradesh.
24 September 2016
Skybomb continues to hog the limelight. This morning we picked up a signal showing he has moved another 600km overnight to the southwest and is now in northern Telangana. This move makes him the most westerly and the most southerly of the Beijing Cuckoos, overtaking Flappy who remains in northern Uttar Pradesh (see map below showing Skybomb’s most recent move and the current position of Flappy to the north).
23 September 2016
Skybomb Bolt has taken another step west and is now in Chhattisgarh. This move is consistent with the prediction by Suresh Kumar from the Wildlife Institute of India (see Skybomb’s page for more details on that). You can see Skybomb’s latest position, and that of Flappy (to the northwest), on the map below.
Based on his experience with European Cuckoos, BTO scientist Chris Hewson has offered this insight into what the Beijing Cuckoos might do next.
“You can see from the two maps below that the areas that they (Flappy and Skybomb) are in have had a lot of rain in the last 30 days….
…but not in the last 10 days:
So, will we see a pause in the movements of Flappy and Skybomb whilst they rest, fatten up and wait for conditions in East Africa to be more receptive? Or will they surprise us and do something different?
Thanks to Chris Hewson for the analysis. Maps from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website – see URL: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov
20 September 2016
Early this morning we picked up a signal from Skybomb showing that, overnight, he has flown around 300km to the west and is now just 800km southeast of Flappy’s position. For more, see Skybomb’s page.
18 September 2016
Skybomb has now joined Flappy in India! After spending a short time on the island of Magdhara, off the southern Bangladeshi coast, he has sprinted on a further 500km west, crossing the border with India, and is now in western West Bengal. See Skybomb’s page for a map. Suresh Kumar suspects the Beijing Cuckoos will remain in India until the NE monsoon begins, usually around the second week of October. Time will tell.
17 September 2016
As the Beijing Cuckoo autumn migration is in full swing, here is a map (below) showing the migration tracks so far of Flappy and Skybomb, the two most advanced birds, both of whom are now in South Asia. Amazing journeys. And we think they aren’t finished yet! It’s clear that, instead of taking a direct route to south Asia, which would take them over the inhospitable Gobi desert of Mongolia and the Tibetan Plateau, they take a more circular route to avoid hostile terrain, even though it’s longer. Thanks to Lyndon Kearsley for producing this map.
Suresh Kumar, from the Wildlife Institute of India, has given us this background about the locations of Flappy and Skybomb.
“The SW monsoon has started to retreat in northern India and while it is still too early for Autumn the chill factor in the evening is definitely setting in. The white and grey wagtails have started showing up more here and are on their way further South. Flappy is likely to have experienced similar cool weather conditions through her course along the India-Nepal border. This region is known as the terrai which is characterized by tall wet grasslands, and used to be high malaria prone area (India’s death valley). Now much of this has been converted to sugar cane fields and is the most densely populated region in India. This entire stretch used to have high densities of tigers and the critically endangered one horned rhino a 100 years ago, and now they are confined only to few protected forests. This is also the habitat of the Bengal Florican, Yellow weaver and other poorly known threatened grassland birds.
Skybomb is now in the Chittagong Hill tract region in Bangladesh. This is a tribal dominated region and has remained politically unstable. Hunting is reported to be widespread here.
Both Flappy and Skybomb have entered the Indian subcontinent via the hill states of Manipur and Tripura adjoining Myanmar. Clearly suggests they are avoiding the high mountain ranges of the Eastern Himalayas and so the only entry is to the South through the Patkai hill range. Together this is where the SW Monsoon ends and builds again as NE monsoon and returns across southern India.”
16 September 2016
Skybomb is in Bangladesh! After a brief stop in southwest China near the border with Vietnam and Laos, he’s flown more than 1,000 km west across Myanmar and is now on an island off the south coast of Bangladesh. Watch out Flappy – Skybomb is catching up! More on Skybomb’s page.
13 September 2016
For a change, it’s all quiet on the Flappy front. However, now it’s Skybomb‘s turn to take the limelight. Today we picked him up in the far southwest of China on the border with Vietnam and Laos. He’s moved more than 1,000km from his previous position in Hunan! Is he following Flappy? Or heading to SE Asia? More on his page.
Cuihu Wetland publishes an article about Flappy! (in Chinese)
12 September 2016
10 September 2016
Flappy continues her move west-northwest along the foothills of the Himalayas and is now back in India having travelled almost 1700km on this heading from Myanmar. Will she turn to the Arabian Sea coast soon? Or does she have a surprise for us? See more on her page.
9 September 2016
Cuihu Urban Wetland Park in Beijing, the location where Flappy was tagged, is planning to erect an information board about cuckoos for the general public. It will include what we know about the life-cycle and migration and, all being well, will include a map showing the migration route of Flappy.
9 September 2016
Skybomb Bolt has moved on a little, heading southwest and is now in northwestern Hunan Province. Will he follow a similar route to Flappy? It’s worth remembering that we believe Skybomb is of the ‘bakeri’ subspecies, and Flappy of the ‘canorus’ subspecies. So it’s possible they could have different wintering grounds and migration routes. Time will tell.
8 September 2016
Flappy has now crossed her 9th international border since being tagged and is in Nepal! She is heading northwest and appears to be following the contours of the Himalaya foothills. Is she heading to Africa?? More detail on Flappy’s page.
6 September 2016
We received an interesting email from Suresh Kumar at Wildlife Institute of India, bringing home the threats faced by these amazing migratory birds. Suresh says:
“This is really exiting to see Flappy move into India… particularly the route she has taken to come into India, which is very similar to the Amur (Falcon) tracks and this appears to be a major migratory corridor. Looks like the cuckoo is going to fly across India and migrate to Southern Africa. May be make a oceanic crossing like the Amurs. That is going to be incredible.
I have attached here a map showing the location of a place called Jatinga. This is located almost in line with flappy’s track, rather 20 km to the North. Jatinga is famously known for the “Bird suicide phenomenon”. A lot is written about this and is available on the internet. During late monsoon season on foggy days local people here are known to put up lights on the ridge line which disorient birds passing through that area and are then knocked down using bamboo poles for the pot. We knew that some birds are moving between the Western Ghats and Northeast India for breeding and they were getting killed at this site en route. I have heard that the killing has been stopped but situation on the ground may be different. Now seeing Flappy move in from as far as Beijing it makes me realize how little we know…
Eagerly wait to see Flappy’s movements the next few days.”
We’ll publish interesting comments on the Beijing Cuckoo Project – please send via Twitter to @BirdingBeijing, via email at birdingbeijing [at] gmail.com or via the Birding Beijing page on Facebook.
6 September 2016
It’s all happening! Now 梦之娟 (Mèng zhī juān), named by the children at Yanqing 2nd Middle School, has begun his migration from Yeyahu National Wetland Reserve in northwest Beijing. This is where he was tagged and where he has spent the whole summer. He is now around 350km south of Beijing in southern Hebei Province.
5 September 2016
It’s all about Flappy right now. With the other cuckoos biding their time, Flappy is well into her autumn migration. After short stopovers in Myanmar and Meghalaya, she has now moved another 800km west north-west and is now on the India/Nepal border!
3 September 2016
Well, Flappy‘s stay in Myanmar was short and sweet. She has pushed on, taking a route south of Nagaland and, as of today, is now on the border of India and Bangladesh. Keep going and stay strong, Flappy!
1 September 2016
Flappy is in Myanmar! After spending a few weeks in Hebei Province, a little south of Beijing, and after a few days of “radio silence”, Flappy’s transmitter has been picked up again by satellites and the latest signals show she has moved around 2,400km to northern Myanmar! This almost certainly rules out SE Asia as a wintering destination. Where will she end up? India? Or will she go all the way to Africa to join the cuckoos from Europe? It’s worth remembering that Flappy is of the subspecies canorus, the same ssp we see in Europe. The three males tagged were all most likely of a different subspecies – bakeri – and it’s possible the two subspecies may have different wintering areas and migration routes. Time will tell and we are now entering a very exciting phase of the Beijing Cuckoo project!
30 August 2016
Skybomb Bolt moves again! He has taken a slight westerly turn, heading SSW from his most recent stop in southern Henan Province. He is now in Hubei!
28 August 2016
After a something of a lull in movement, it’s Skybomb Bolt that has now made a move.. As one of the males, most likely of the bakeri race, he has spent all summer at Yeyahu National Wetland Reserve in northwest Beijing but has now begun his autumn migration by heading almost due south around 1,000km to southern Henan Province. The heading is still consistent with a wintering location of Africa or SE Asia… which will it be?
1 August 2016
Flappy is on her way….! Having successfully crossed the Mongolian desert, she is currently southwest of Beijing in Hebei Province. She is now the most southerly of the five Beijing Cuckoos. Hope, after a ‘false start’ in mid-July, remains on her summering grounds east of Lake Baikal, so she is the most northerly of the five. The three males remain in the vicinity of their tagging locations in Beijing.
27 July 2016
BBC Wildlife Magazine has written an article about the Beijing Cuckoo Project! Flappy is famous!
22 July 2016
The BTO has issued a Press Release about Flappy!
20 July 2016
Our Cuckoos now have individual pages. You can follow their latest updates by clicking on the photos above or the links below:
19 July 2016
Right on cue, “Hope” has begun to move south! Latest position below. She has moved a little south of her breeding grounds in southern Russia and is moving towards the Mongolian border.
19 July 2016
We now have a name for the fifth and final Beijing Cuckoo, a female tagged at Yeyahu and currently in Russia. The name – “Hope” – was chosen by students at the International Youth Green Summer Camp in Guangzhou. Fifteen names were suggested by the passionate young environmentalists with the winning name chosen at random. Thanks very much guys and girls – looking forward to following “Hope” as she begins her autumn migration soon.
17 July 2016
Flappy has taken an unexpected about-turn and headed back north! She is now along the Herlen River in Mongolia, just a little southeast of her breeding location. According to the BTO, such about-turns are not uncommon among the UK cuckoos. It’s difficult to interpret the reason for the return movement but we are sure she knows what she is doing!
15 July 2016
Flappy continues her journey south and is now back in China! It looks as if she is taking a route that re-traces her steps from her tagging location in Beijing. Will she will stop at Cuihu Wetland, where she was tagged, on her return journey? The other 4 cuckoos remain on their breeding territories.
14 July 2016
Exciting news! Flappy has moved south to the edge of the Gobi Desert. If this is the beginning of her autumn migration, as we suspect, the next few weeks will be very exciting indeed. Where will she head? South Asia? Africa? Place your bets..
Equally interesting will be the route she takes. If Africa is her destination, will she follow a similar route to that of the Amur Falcon? Or will she surprise us, just as the Beijing Swifts did, by taking an unexpected route?
12 July 2016
Here are the latest positions of the 5 Beijing Cuckoos. All remain on the breeding grounds (the 3 males in Beijing and the 2 females in Mongolia and Russia). It’s interesting that ‘our’ cuckoos have not yet begun their autumn migration but, in western Europe, all of the BTO’s Cuckoos have now left the UK with one having already crossed the Sahara!
6 July 2016
All five cuckoos are still on their breeding grounds and appear well. We’re not expecting any major movement until their autumn migration begins. We don’t know when they will begin that migration, so we’ll be keeping tabs on them and will report as soon as any of the birds begin to show signs of migrating south. It’s already interesting that one of the Beijing birds was still moving north as the first UK cuckoo was beginning its southward journey! Watch this space!
24 June 2016
The fourth cuckoo has a name! Students at Yanqing 2nd Middle School, close to Yeyahu, has voted for 梦之娟, pronounced Mèng zhī juān. It means “Dream Bird”. Thank you Yanqing 2nd Middle School…! Hope your cuckoo fulfils his dreams and travels safely to his wintering grounds this autumn…
17 June 2016
We now have a name for the third cuckoo to be tagged – a male at Yeyahu on 27 June 2016. 子规 （Zigui), pronounced “zigway”, has been named by the members of the China Birdwatching Society. Zigui is an old traditional name for Cuckoo in Chinese. We are expecting the names of the fourth and fifth cuckoos to be confirmed by the end of the month (one by the Yanqing 2nd Middle School, close to Yeyahu, and one by the readers of a national newspaper).
12 June 2016
All 5 Beijing Cuckoos seem to have settled down for the breeding season. Flappy is on the Mongolia/Russia border, female 2 is further north, a little east of Lake Baikal and the 3 males remain in Beijing. It’s possible we may still see some further movement north from the two females and/or some roaming around by some or all of them during the next few weeks… but we are expecting few additional major surprises until late July when the excitement of the autumn migration and wintering quarters will be revealed… Watch this space!
6 June 2016
Female 2 has continued north and is now around 200km east of Lake Baikal. Flappy continues her stay in the Mongolia/Russia border area and the males are all still hanging out in Beijing. Has Flappy ended her spring migration and settling down to breed? And just how far north will female 2 travel?
5 June 2016
Female 2 has powered past Flappy and into Russia, slightly altering her course to a northeasterly direction. Flappy remains just inside Mongolia, south of the border. All 3 males remain in the vicinity of their tagging locations in Beijing.
4 June 2016 – 2nd update
Flappy joined by 2nd female in Hentiyn Mountains! Remarkably similar trajectory and now the two females tagged in Beijing are within 50km of each other!
4 June 2016
Flappy remains in the Hentiyn Mountains of Mongolia, just south of the Russian border. Female 161315 has followed Flappy’s trajectory and is now on the border of Inner Mongolia and Mongolia. Is this coincidence? Or the first evidence of a major migration route that arcs around the Mongolian Plateau and into Siberia? We’ll know soon enough! The three males, including Skybomb Bolt, continue to enjoy their original tagging locations at Yeyahu and Hanshiqiao.
2 June 2016
Flappy McFlapperson (tag number 161317), the female tagged at Cuihu Urban Wetland Park, has journeyed north and is now on the border of Mongolia and Russia, heading in a NNW direction. Given the initial easterly movement from the tagging location, it appears that Flappy has taken an arc around the Mongolian Plateau. The other female, tag number 161315, remains in northern Hebei Province and the three males are all in the vicinity of their tagging locations at Hanshiqiao and Yeyahu.
1 June 2016
“Flappy McFlapperson” and “Skybomb Bolt” are the names of the first two Beijing Cuckoos. Big thanks to the pupils at Dulwich International School, Beijing.
31 May 2016
The two female cuckoos have both travelled c200km north of their tagging locations and are now on the border between Hebei Province and Inner Mongolia. At the time of tagging, Chris suspected the females may have been migrants of the subspecies canorus (the same ssp as in Europe) given their relatively large size. This movement appears to lend weight to that theory. The three smaller males, likely of the ssp bakeri, remain in the vicinity of their tagging locations. All appear to be doing well.
30 May 2016
Chris Hewson (BTO) and Shi Yang (BWRRC) sign agreement to cooperate on Beijing Cuckoo Project, including capacity building, sharing data and working on joint scientific papers.
As Chris checked in for his flight back to the UK, we learned that one of the cuckoos tagged at Yeyahu has already moved 30km northeast..!
29 May 2016
29 May 2016
We have just completed a week ‘in the field’ during which we caught a total of 16 cuckoos, including one Indian Cuckoo! It appears that the Common Cuckoos in Beijing (likely ssp bakeri) are lighter than those in the UK (canorus). Subsequently, only 5 of the 16 were heavy enough to carry a satellite tag, according to the BTO’s strict guidelines that prioritise the birds’ welfare. 4.5g tags from Microwave Technology in the US were fitted to two females and three males caught at three sites in Beijing – Cuihu Urban Wetland Park, Hanshiqiao and Yeyahu Nature Reserve. “Team Cuckoo” included the BTO’s Chris Hewson, Jian-wei, Shi Yang, Wang Bojun, Chen Yuelong, Chang Gao from BWRRC, Wu Lan from Beijing Forestry University, Liu Xuemei and Feng Chun from Yeyahu Nature Reserve, Zhang Yong from Hanshiqiao, Zhang Qiang from Cuihu and volunteers Peng Peng, Yu Fang and Yu Xiaomo. We were fortunate to have the help of “Team Swift” involving experienced bird ringers from the UK, Belgium and Sweden, including Lyndon Kearsley, Susanne Akesson, Dick Newell, Aron Hejdstrom, Gie Goris, Geert De Smet and Rob Jolliffe. Many thanks to everyone involved.
All 5 appear to be transmitting ok, so we are hopeful that we will begin to receive data about their whereabouts from next week.
Here is a short video of some of the action from the week…
About The Beijing Cuckoo Project
The Beijing Cuckoo Project is a collaboration between the Beijing Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (BWRRC), China Birdwatching Society (CBS), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Birding Beijing to catch, and fit satellite tags to Eurasian Cuckoos (Cuculus canorus) in Beijing in May 2016. Scientists have deployed ultra-lightweight satellite tags onto 5 cuckoos in the Beijing area. Chris Hewson, a leading scientist from the UK’s BTO travelled to Beijing, helping to train local volunteers to catch the cuckoos and fit the tags.
Local schoolchildren will give names to the cuckoos and follow their progress as part of a specially designed “environmental curriculum”. A special website will allow members of the public to follow their progress, too, providing information about cuckoos, maps showing their latest positions and the routes taken, and background about the project.
The aims of the project are to:
Discover the Beijing Cuckoos’ currently unknown migration route and winter quarters
Engage the Chinese public about the wonders of bird migration with a view to promoting conservation
Enthuse Chinese schoolchildren through their participation in naming the cuckoos, following their journeys and learning about their lifestyle and the threats they face
Strengthen links between Chinese and international bird conservation organisations and build capacity among Chinese banding volunteers
The Beijing Cuckoo project will provide significant benefits to science, conservation, public engagement and environmental education in China, including:
- Science: Establishing the currently unknown migration route and wintering areas (Asia or Africa?) of Beijing Cuckoos
- Conservation: Knowing the migration strategies and breeding season ranging of Beijing Cuckoos will inform efforts to protect Cuckoos and other birds in China and further afield
- Public Engagement: Through written, broadcast and social media, this project will engage the Chinese public about the wonders of bird migration, helping to raise awareness about Beijing’s rich birdlife and encourage more people to promote bird and wildlife conservation and respect for the environment
- Environmental education: The project will include the participation of Beijing’s schools, both Chinese and International who, either as part of a special environmental curriculum or through existing life sciences and geography classes, will name the tagged Cuckoos, follow their progress and learn about their habitat requirements and the threats they face
The Beijing Cuckoo Project is a collaboration between the Beijing Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (BWRRC), China Birdwatching Society (CBWS), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Birding Beijing and generously supported by the Zoological Society of London, Oriental Bird Club and the British Birds Charitable Foundation.