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Have you heard a cuckoo?

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Martin Hughes-Games Martin Hughes-Games | 16:57 UK time, Thursday, 28 May 2009

It's one of the defining sounds of the spring. The simple echoing call of the cuckoo which marks its return to the UK from its wintering ground in Africa. This call has become embedded into our culture and is as much a part of the British spring as village cricket, freshly cut grass and bank holiday traffic jams.

cuckoo_blog_2.jpgBut the sight and sound of the cuckoo is becoming a rare event. The RSPB's latest assessment of UK bird number reveals that cuckoo numbers are in dire decline
and nationally we have lost 37% in the last 15 years.

The causes behind the cuckoo's decline are not really understood but it's to do with its complex life cycle.

The cuckoo doesn't build its own nest. They lay their eggs in other's nests, with over 90% of them being laid in reed warbler, meadow pipit and dunnock nests. When the cuckoo chick hatches it pushes the hosts' chicks out of the nest and is fed by its trusting foster parents until it fledges. As soon as the chick fledges it begins an amazing journey to Africa which can be over 4000 miles long and take weeks to accomplish. They will stay in Africa for two thirds of their year before flying to us.

At every stage of its complex life cycle there are hurdles. Here in the UK some of the host species are in decline, some important food sources such as caterpillar moths are also in steep decline and there is the constant threat of habitat loss. Outside of the UK weather pattern changes may be affecting their migration and food shortages in their wintering grounds.

We have had huge fun with our strange birds nest challenge, thanks so much, but this request is much more serious. We and the British Trust for Ornithology really need your help to get an up to date snapshot of how the cuckoos are doing this year.

So please tell us where AND when you have seen or heard one.

This is an important Springwatch survey - thank you very much for your help.

Update Sunday 31st May
Well we're overwhelmed by your response. It's Sunday afternoon and we're ploughing our way through your 8000+ replies. Hoping to have something to show you on the show on Monday.

Update Wednesday 3rd June
We're on track processing all your cuckoo sightings, to have something to show you before the show finishes and to pass the data to the BTO for a fuller analysis.

Update Monday 15th June
If you didn't see Thursday's show, the BTO have created a fantastic map using your sightings. You can zoom into your local area to have a better look.

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