On 17th May 2018, the last satellite transmission was received from Flappy – the Oriental Bird Club sponsored Common Cuckoo of the nominate subspecies – 100 km north of Mandaly and 30 km east of the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar. It seems certain Flappy perished sometime on the night of 14-15th May, during the return leg of her migration from wintering quarters in Mozambique to where she had spent the previous two summers, in northern Mongolia, close to the border with Russia.
The first cuckoo to be fitted with a satellite transmitter as part of the Beijing Cuckoo Project in May 2016 in Beijing, China, during the two years before her demise, the bird crossed 61 international borders involving 16 countries: China, Mongolia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Oman, Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia and DRC.
The insights into cuckoo migration have been profound: few predicted the cuckoos passing through China in spring would summer as far north, let alone winter in southern Africa. The truly remarkable journeys made by Flappy were followed by a large online audience and a number of high profile media articles. Her exploits helped link two great continents and thanks to OBC sponsorship, helped raise the profile of the Club too.
Full details of the remarkable travels of Flappy and the other cuckoos – which took in East Asia, parts of South-east Asia and South Asia, then across the Arabian Sea and along the coast of the Arabian peninsular and into the Horn of Africa, down through East Africa to southern Africa – can be found on the The Beijing Cuckoo Project website.
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 was to discover the unknown migration route and winter quarters for Common Cuckoos breeding in East Asia. In 2017, there are plans to tag further birds to learn more about the remarkable migrations.
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 and BirdLife International.