The International School of Beijing's (ISB) Middle School Science Café series took flight on November 4 by shedding light on a migration mystery that has long bamboozled birdwatchers: where do Beijing’s cuckoos go in winter?
Renowned local birdwatcher and conservationist Terry Townshend spoke to more than 50 students in the MS/HS Library for the first talk in the series.
Held in the first week of each month, the Science Café introduces middle school students to the innovative work of local researchers and scientists from different fields. Each talk includes a Q&A session and refreshments.
Mr. Townshend shared updates of the Beijing Cuckoo Project, an ongoing study into the migratory flights of five cuckoos: Flappy McFlapperson, Skybomb Bolt, Zigui, Mengzhijuan, and Hope.
Named by students from Beijing middle schools, each cuckoo has been tagged with a solar-powered GPS tracker that records their location and temperature.
While the winter flight patterns of cuckoos in Europe and North America are well-documented, little is known about where cuckoos in North Asia go when the chill sets in. In spring they lay their eggs, before leaving in search of warmer weather in late autumn.
Prior to the study, a poll was taken by participants of the project to hypothesize where the cuckoos would go.
Southeast Asia was the most favored destination with 46 percent of the vote, followed by Africa at 36 percent, and India at 11 percent.
The tagged cuckoos left Beijing at the end of July. One of the most impressive journeys has been by Skybomb Bolt, who flew continuously for two weeks without sleep or food across the Indian Ocean, making landfall in Somalia on October 31.
Another miraculous migration has been by Flappy. She flew north towards Russia for the end of summer, before changing course and crossing Myanmar, India, Oman, Yemen, and then Ethiopia, where she touched down on November 6.
You can learn more about the Beijing Cuckoo Project here.