Punters are just going cuckoo for birds’ race across continents

Undated RSPB handout photo of a cuckoo. The cuckoo has been added to the 'red list' of the UK's most

Undated RSPB handout photo of a cuckoo. The cuckoo has been added to the 'red list' of the UK's most threatened birds. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday May 28, 2009. The latest assessment of the status of the UK's regularly occurring birds shows that more than one in five species are now red-listed because of concerns over their survival. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Birds. Photo credit should read: Mark Hamblin/RSPB/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Click here to view the route of Chris the cuckooNever mind the Grand National - a new breed of animal challenge is catching the eye of bookmakers and punters.

William Hill has teamed up with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), based in Thetford, for The Great Cuckoo Race, which will see gamblers have a flutter on which of the trust's tagged cuckoos will make their annual migration the quickest.

The birds' epic journey sees them fly from West Africa, crossing over jungle, the Sahara Desert, the Mediterranean Sea, continental Europe and the English Channel before landing on UK shores. They are followed by the BTO using state-of-the-art tracking equipment.

The trust has tagged 50 birds since 2011, with 17 still active.

It is now asking punters to place their bets on which one will make it home first, with David, the first to return in 2013, this year's favourite at odds of 2/1.

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Chris Packham, president of the BTO, has 'Chris The Cuckoo' named after him and said the initiative had a serious message.

'Migration is a game of life and death.

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'And for our cuckoos it's about the survival of their species, they're in critical decline, so every bird that makes it back is a real bonus.

'Obviously I'm rooting for Chris who is the veteran in the field, you could say he is the Tony Adams of Cuckoos Utd,' he said.

William Hill spokesman, Jon Ivan-Duke, said: 'This betting market stands on a wing and a prayer – literally. Every time the cuckoo makes this perilous journey, it is the ultimate gamble of life and death, with many not making it back to these shores.

'While it's a bit of fun to create these sort of odds, we hope it raises awareness about the plight of the cuckoo.'

Do you have a story for us? Email Andrew Fitchett on andrew.fitchett@archant.co.uk

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