Flappy goes cuckoo and leads a merry dance


There was exciting news earlier this week when Flappy – or Flappy McFlapperson to give her full name: the female Cuckoo sponsored by the Oriental Bird Club through the Beijing Cuckoo Project—apparently began her southward migration. Speculation was rife as to whether she would head towards Africa or South Asia. However, as the maps below demonstrate, she is not about to give her secret away just yet.

By 15th July, Flappy was back in China, having been tracked to the edge of the Gobi Desert, and it appeared as if she was retracing her route from her tagging location in Beijing.

Things looked to be quite normal, but then her latest position revealed she had headed north once more to a location in Mongolia to the southeast of where she had started, thus completing three sides of a parallelogram!

Although the behaviour might appear extraordinary, such return movements of southbound migrants are not unknown, according to the BTO’s Dr Chris Hewson, who manages the project.

According to Hewson, migrant birds are sometimes even known to return to where they began their autumn migration.

In this instance, it is possible that on encountering harsh conditions on the edge of the Gobi Desert, Flappy turned back north to where she knew there was favourable habitat and a food source.

The next few days are keenly awaited to see where Flappy will make her next move.

Meanwhile, the other four cuckoos fitted with transmitters through the Beijing Cuckoo Project are all still on their breeding grounds.

All five of the birds were trapped in the Beijing area where local schoolchildren chose names for them and encouraged to follow their movements online as they move first to their breeding grounds then in the autumn to their as yet unknown wintering grounds.

The Beijing Cuckoo Project aims to engage Chinese audiences about the wonders of bird migration with a view to promoting conservation and helping to strengthen the links between Chinese and international bird conservation organisations.

The main scientific goal will be to discover the presently unknown migration route and winter quarters for Common Cuckoos breeding in East Asia.

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.

Alongside OBC, other supporters of the project are the Zoological Society of London and the British Birds Charitable Foundation.