Cuckoo birds may be going extinct, and no one knows why. Scientists have been struggling to explain a catastrophic decline in the number of birds alive on earth. The number of cuckoos has declined by two-thirds in the last 25 years, leaving as few as 7,000 breeding pairs migrating to the UK from Africa each spring. This is a real tragedy as the cuckoo’s distinctive call has long been heralded as the start of spring in the UK.
In an effort to try and save the beautiful species, scientists and conservationists in the UK are teaming up to place GPS tracking systems on several cuckoos. With no one quite sure what is behind the decline, there are very real concerns about the cuckoo’s future.
Possible reasons for the declining cuckoo population include a drop in the hairy caterpillars it feasts on while on British soil. Deforestation and other forms of habitat destruction in Africa may also be a culprit.
GPS tracking systems have been attacked to five cuckoo birds after using recorded calls and the sight of a stuffed female to lure them into thin nylon nets. The tracking system transmits location data for 10 hours, before shutting off to recharge their batteries using solar energy for two days. Scientists are hoping the devices will send back data for three years, providing them with vital information about the cuckoo’s lifestyle.
So far all of the bird’s that have been tagged with a GPS tracking system are males, but conservationists are hoping to raise more money so they can tag some female birds as well.
Apparently studying migrant species like the cuckoo can be tricky because the birds are always on the go. With the tracking systems, scientists will now be able to figure out where the birds go along their journey migrating back and forth from Africa to Europe.