A tagged cuckoo is named Flappy McFlapperson

Flappy McFlapperson is one of five common cuckoos that are being tracked to help researchers reveal where Chinese birds go in the winter. 

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Satellite-tagged cuckoo Flappy McFlapperson

Following in the spirit of Boaty McBoatface – a choice that topped a poll to name a polar ship in April 2016 – a cuckoo has been named Flappy McFlapperson by schoolchildren in Beijing, China.

Flappy McFlapperson, sponsored by the Oriental Bird Club, is one of five cuckoos that have been fitted with tags so researchers can follow their migratory routes.

The Beijing Cuckoo Project, a collaboration between the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Beijing Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (BWRRC), China Birdwatching Society (CBWS) and Birding Beijing, will track the birds.

The project wants to discover where the birds spend the winter.

“No one knows where cuckoos breeding in Asia go. We have tagged birds from two different subspecies – Cuculus canorus canorus and bakeri – and they may go to different places. It is important to learn the routes and stopovers so that we can assess the need for conservation action,” said BTO scientist Dr Chris Hewson.

Flappy McFlapperson left Beijing in May 2016 and headed north into Mongolia, crossed the Gobi Desert and settled in Onon-Balj National Park, near to the Russian border.

On 13 July 2016 she flew 513km south across the Gobi Desert to start her migratory journey before making a U-turn and flying back to the Herlen River.

Hewson explained that U-turns like this are seen quite often with cuckoos that the BTO have tracked in the UK and they occur at all stages of the migratory cycle.

“We think they are a way of the birds optimising their migrations, deciding to return to their last place if stopover conditions further on are not as good,” he said.

Follow Flappy McFlapperson’s progress

Read more wildlife stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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