Record-breaking Suffolk cuckoo tracked across the world

Undated handout photo issued by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) of a cuckoo named PJ who is

PJ the cuckoo, has been tracked around the world by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) - Credit: PA

A record breaking satellite-tracked cuckoo tagged in Suffolk has again returned to the UK as he continues migrating around the world.

Five-year-old PJ was fitted with a satellite tag in King's Forest in June 2016 and has since completed his fifth annual migration cycle from East Anglia to Africa.

A map tracking the distance travelled by PJ the cuckoo

A map tracking the distance travelled by PJ the cuckoo - Credit: Press Association Images

He has travelled more than 50,000 miles since being tagged and is the first satellite-tagged cuckoo to achieve the milestone in the 10-year history of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) project.

During the five years he has crossed the Sahara desert 10 times, navigated the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and the Pyrenees in France and Spain.

Turning six in the summer, PJ will be within a year of the British longevity record for a ringed cuckoo, which currently stands at six years and 11 months. 

Cuckoos are summer visitors to the UK, where the females lay their eggs in the nests of other species – tricking those birds into rearing their chicks for them.

The BTO began its tracking project in 2011 to help uncover what might be driving declines in populations of cuckoos, which are "red listed" for conversation concern, with breeding numbers down more than two-thirds across the UK.

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It hopes to tag a further 12 cuckoos this spring. 

Dr Chris Hewson, lead scientist on the project at the BTO, said: “We have been avidly watching PJ since he began his journey back to the UK in late February, willing him to complete the journey back to the UK this spring.

“We can now heave a huge sigh of relief knowing he is safely back in Suffolk but of course, more than that, I look forward to looking more closely at the information he has given us.

“He is an amazing and unusual cuckoo – they normally migrate to Africa via either Spain or Italy and keep to the same route every year, but PJ has used both routes, and one in between, over the five years and in fact last autumn he stopped in both Spain and Italy.”

Dr Hewson suggested the flexibility may have helped him survive by allowing him to escape bad conditions on one route.

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