The gruesome find of a severed foot in Thetford Forest has told the British Trust for Ornithology that one of its workers has met his end.
Satellite-tagged Stanley is now an ex-cuckoo and the Thetford-based ornithologists only know it was him because the predator that ate him left his identifying ring on the leg near Feltwell.
On May 31, 2014, Stanley had a state of the art satellite tag fitted while on his breeding grounds close to Cranwich Heath, near Mundford. Since then he has completed two whole migration cycles, leaving Britain in the early summer close to the Dover straits and heading southeast through France, before flying out across the Mediterranean near to Marseille, arriving in Africa on the Algerian coast, close to the border with Tunisia.
From here he made the hazardous crossing of the Sahara desert before making his way to his winter home in the Congo rainforest.
During his two years wearing a satellite tag he travelled about 18,000 miles just on migration, not including all the chasing female cuckoos in Norfolk.
Paul Stancliffe of the BTO said, “We were very excited when he returned this spring and he seemed to be doing very well, covering a large area of the northern part of the forest.
“Although a very sad end to a magnificent bird, the information that Stanley has given us helps us to understand the pressures our cuckoos are facing.”
But Stanley was a mere beginner compared to the trust’s longest serving cuckoo Chris, named after its president, Springwatch presenter Chris Packham. Tagged in Santon Downham in 2011, cuckoo Chris had migrated 78,000 miles by the time he died in September 2015, in northern Chad.
There are four satellite tagged Cuckoos still flying, two in Wales and two in northwest England, and over the next couple of weeks the BTO will be fitting tags to a further eight birds, in the Fens, Thetford Forest and the Midlands, . Anyone can follow these birds as they begin to make their way back to Africa in the next few weeks at www.bto.org/cuckoos