The Mongolia Cuckoo Project

Welcome to the Mongolia Cuckoo Project!

From 4-8 June 2019, five cuckoos – one Oriental Cuckoo and four Common Cuckoos – were fitted with transmitters around Khurkh Bird Banding Center in northern Mongolia.  The birds have been named by local schools who will follow “their” birds to learn about the migration route and wintering grounds of these iconic birds.

You can follow them, too, by checking this page and by following @BirdingBeijing on Twitter.

The latest positions of the Mongolian Cuckoos. Zoom into the map using “+” and “-” to see more detail

The Mongolia Cuckoo Project is a joint initiative by the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center (WSCC) of Mongolia and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), facilitated by Birding Beijing and generously supported by the Oriental Bird Club and Mr Dick Newell.

The Project Team – including Chris Hewson (BTO), Lyndon Kearsley, Dick Newell and Terry Townshend – is grateful to WSCC for making the arrangements to visit Khurkh Bird Banding Center and for their invaluable support.  We are particularly indebted to Nyambayar Batbayar, Batmunkh Davaasuren and Tuvshinjargal Erdenechimeg.

Introducing the five Mongolian Cuckoos:

Cuckoo 1

Mongolian name: нүүдэлчин

English translation: Nomad

Species: Oriental Cuckoo (Cuculus optatus)

Sex: male

Tag number: 161312


Cuckoo 2

Mongolian name: Хурх

English translation: (Captain) Khurkhboldly going where no cuckoo has gone before…

Species: Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

Sex: male

Tag number: 170438


Cuckoo 3

Mongolian name: намжаа (NAMJAA)

English translation: Namjaa is the name of a storyteller in Mongolian folklore

Species: Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

Sex: male

Tag number: 170436


Cuckoo 4

Mongolian name: Баян (BAYAN)

English translation: Prosper

Species: Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

Sex: male

Tag number: 170437


Cuckoo 5

Mongolian name: Онон

English translation: Onon (after the local river)

Species: Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

Sex: male

Tag number: 161314

Latest News:

Please consider donating via this JustGiving page towards the cost of the satellite fees, so far not covered by existing funding. Any gift, no matter how small, is welcome and 100% of any donation will go to BTO and used only towards the satellite fees for this project. Thank you.

16 August 2019

ONON continues to set the pace. He’s flown 300km SW and has crossed the provincial border into Guizhou. Captain KHURKH and BAYAN are not far behind. Of the remaining two cuckoos, NAMJAA is still in Shandong and NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, remains in Russia, some 3,500km to the north!

ONON has consolidated his lead and is now in Guizhou Province, ahead of Captain KHURKH and BAYAN.

14 August 2019

The race is on! All four Common Cuckoos are now in China and heading south. ONON is the latest to move and is now in Hunan Province, making him the most southerly of the four. Captain KHURKH is in Hubei Province, BAYAN is in Shaanxi and NAMJAA is in Shandong. NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, has now spent a month northwest of Lake Baikal in Russia. Being the first Oriental Cuckoo to be tracked means that we have no idea what to expect. The temperature of his tag looks normal, so we are not unduly worried, although it will be reassuring to see him move south soon.

All four Common Cuckoos are now well on their way south with ONON the most southerly after his recent move from Shanxi.

11 August 2019

BAYAN (Prosper) is the last of the five to begin his autumn migration. He’s flown 600km south across the Gobi and is now only 50km north of the border with China.

BAYAN is the last of the five cuckoos to begin to move south.

9 August 2019

Captain KHURKH is now the most southerly of the five Mongolian Cuckoos. He’s flown another 400km SSE and is in the Qinling Mountains of northwest Hubei Province, just 150km north of the Yangtze River.

Captain KHURKH is now the most southerly of the Mongolian Cuckoos. More than 3,000km separates him and NOMAD, the most northerly bird.

8 August 2019

Captain KHURKH has flown c800km south, crossing the Chinese border and is now in Shaanxi Province.

7 August 2019

This map shows the positions of all five Mongolian Cuckoos. There is around 2,800km separating NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, in Russia and NAMJAA, the most southerly Common Cuckoo, now in Shandong Province, China.

After being tagged within a few kilometres of each other, there is now 2,800km separating the five Mongolian Cuckoos!

5 August 2019

Captain KHURKH is heading south! He’s flown around 500km and is now in southern Mongolia, close to the border with China.

Captain Khurkh. Boldly going..

2 August 2019

ONON has continued to move south and is now in western Shanxi Province, around 500km WSW of Beijing. The other cuckoos remain in their positions from 1 August.

ONON is in Shanxi Province but NAMJAA remains the most southerly of the Mongolian Cuckoos.

1 August 2019

ONON has made a move and flown south to the border of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia (China). He is on a similar trajectory to NAMJAA who has continued south and is now in Shandong Province. Latest positions below.

ONON and NAMJAA are on their way!

29 July 2019

NAMJAA is motoring.. he’s flown more than 700km SE and is now in China’s Hebei Province, just 200km north of Beijing.

NAMJAA is well on his way and is the first of the Common Cuckoos to leave Mongolia.

28 July 2019

Autumn is here! On 11/12 July, after only four weeks on his breeding territory in central Siberia, NOMAD (an Oriental Cuckoo) made a move of around 150km SSE, closely followed by another move of similar distance. He is now c300km SSE of his summer position. We believe NOMAD is the first ORIENTAL CUCKOO to be fitted with a tag, so his migration route and wintering grounds are of huge interest. Where will he spend the winter? SE Asia? India? Africa? Or maybe even Australia?

NOMAD’s position as at 28 July 2019. He’s made a move of c300km SSE from his breeding grounds in central Siberia.

Meanwhile, two of the COMMON CUCKOOS have also moved from their tagging locations. On 25 July, Captain KHURKH (boldly going where no cuckoo has gone before?) headed 170km west towards Ulaanbaatar. And NAMJAA is heading due south, surely the start of his autumn migration.

Captain KHURKH has moved west towards Ulaanbaatar – is this the start of his autumn migration or a reaction to local conditions?
NAMJAA is heading due south, the start of his autumn migration?

3 July 2019

All of the Mongolian Cuckoos seem to be stable on their breeding grounds. NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, remains in central Siberia and (Captain) Khurkh, Prosper, Onon and Namjaa are all in the vicinity of Khurkh ringing station, where they were caught and tagged. It’s in stark contrast to the UK cuckoos, most of which are already on their way back to Africa.

22 June 2019

NOMAD, the Oriental Cuckoo, seems to have settled down, presumably now on his breeding grounds in central Siberia, whilst the four Common Cuckoos, including (Captain) Khurkh, remain in the vicinity of Khurkh ringing station.

17 June 2019

The ORIENTAL CUCKOO continues to move northwest. He’s now 1,625km NNW of Khurkh and still going!

16 June 2019

The ORIENTAL CUCKOO is still on the move! Since being tagged in Khurkh, he has flown 1375 km NNW and is now in Krasnoyarsk on the southern edge of the Central Siberian Plateau!

10 June 2019

Whilst the four COMMON CUCKOOS remain in the general area of Khurkh Bird Banding Center, the ORIENTAL CUCKOO has already moved on and is now c250km to the NW on a heading towards Lake Baikal in Russia.

8 June 2019

Mission Accomplished!  After a remarkable three days in the field, already the fifth cuckoo has been fitted with a transmitter!  After the male ORIENTAL CUCKOO on day one, the next four to be fitted with a transmitter were all male COMMON CUCKOOS.  Here is a video of Tuvshi, manager of the Khurkh Bird Banding Center, releasing the fifth cuckoo.

7 June 2019

The Mongolia Project Team visits the local school in Khurkh to speak to students about the cuckoo tracking project and to ask them to nominate two names for the first two cuckoos.

The students chose “нүүдэлчин” (NOMAD) and “Онон(ONON) after the local river that runs through the town.

6 June 2019

The Mongolia Cuckoo Project Team catches and fits a transmitter to the first cuckoo, and it’s an ORIENTAL CUCKOO!  We believe this is the first time a transmitter has been fitted to this species, so it’ll be fascinating to see where it spends the summer and to discover the wintering grounds and migration route of this poorly known species.

The BTO’s Chris Hewson with the ORIENTAL CUCKOO after being fitted with a transmitter.

5 June 2019

The Mongolia Cuckoo Project Team arrives in Khurkh after an eight-hour drive from Ulan Bator.