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Carlton the Cuckoo celebrates record-breaking flight with golf, scientists say

PUBLISHED: 12:43 27 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:43 27 April 2020

A dove-sized bird which migrated to East Anglia from the Ivory Coast in record time celebrated its journey with several rounds of golf, scientists say. Photo: BTO

A dove-sized bird which migrated to East Anglia from the Ivory Coast in record time celebrated its journey with several rounds of golf, scientists say. Photo: BTO

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A dove-sized bird which migrated to East Anglia from the Ivory Coast in record time celebrated its journey with several rounds of golf, scientists say.

The bird flew 4,000 miles in just seven days, astonishing scientists from Thetford. Photo: Edmund Fellowes / BTOThe bird flew 4,000 miles in just seven days, astonishing scientists from Thetford. Photo: Edmund Fellowes / BTO

Having braved sandstorms, thunderstorms, and drought over a 4,000 mile solo journey, Carlton II the cuckoo - named after the Carlton Marshes near Lowestoft - enjoyed not one, not two, but three visits to golf courses at the end of his journey.

Carlton II was being tracked by scientists from the Thetford-based British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) as part of an effort to understand the migratory cycle of cuckoos, and to help scientists explain the species’ alarming decline.

BTO have tracked the bird with an ultra-light satellite tag since 2018, and have seen it cover an astonishing 22,000 miles in eight migrations since then.

Returning from the Ivory Coast in West Africa on its most recent trip, Carlton II flew 4,000 miles in just seven days, setting a record for the fastest known cuckoo migration.

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A map of its mammoth route shows the bird stopped off at a south London golf club before visiting another golf club in Berkshire. Carlton II then flew to another golf course at Burnham Beeches before returning to his breeding grounds at the Carlton Colville nature reserve.

Dr Chris Hewson, a lead scientist at BTO, said: “It is great to see Carlton II getting back to the UK so quickly. Taking just a week to cover more than 3,000 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.”

BTO scientists have been tracking cuckoos among other birds to understand why nearly three-quarters of Britain’s breeding cuckoos have disappeared in the last 25 years.

“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,” Dr Hewson added.

You can track the BTO cuckoos at www.bto.org/cuckoos


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