The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has confirmed that Cuach KP, one of the first Irish Cuckoos to be tagged as part of a Cuckoo Tracking Project, has landed home in Killarney National Park after a winter spent in the rainforests of the Congo Basin in Central Africa.

Cuach KP, along with two other Irish Cuckoos, was tagged in Killarney National Park in May 2023. He is the first to successfully make the 9,000km journey home for the summer months. On arrival into Ireland on Monday, KP made a short stop in Fermoy before making his way back to Derrycunihy, in Killarney National Park, the place where he was originally tagged before his release.

While the Cuckoo has been well-studied during the breeding season, very little is known about the routes they take once they head off on migration or where in Africa they spend the winter months. The Cuckoo Tracking Project was set up by the NPWS together with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) last year to better understand their migration patterns and the habitat pressures on the Cuckoo population. The birds were given names and fitted with satellite tags so that their movements could be tracked. 

Over the course of Cuach KP ‘s extraordinary 9000km journey to and from the Kingdom, he covered two continents and several countries.

Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan said: 

“The return of Cuach KP is real success story for this project, and the partnership between the NPWS and the British Trust for Ornithology. Projects like this really helps us to learn more about precious birds such as the Cuckoo and how we can all keep them safe.”

Eamonn Meskell, Divisional Manager at Killarney National Park said: 

“We’re delighted that Cuach KP has found his way home to Killarney during the first year of this monitoring project. Cuckoos are such an intriguing bird and one that we associate with the arrival of summer. All of us at Killarney National Park are now hoping that the two other birds tagged as part of this project will follow and join him here over the coming days.”

Sam Bayley, NPWS Conservation Ranger, who set up the Project in conjunction with BTO said: 

“Satellite tagging gives us a clear picture of the Cuckoos journey for the first time, to Africa and back to Ireland.  KPs journey was a round trip of nearly 9000km ending with an epic sea crossing from northern Spain direct to Ireland across the Bay of Biscay. Big sea crossings haven’t been recorded in Cuckoos in Europe before, so that’s a really interesting twist.”

Reports from the satellite tagging system indicate that that other Cuckoos from the project are also on their way. Cuach Torc is currently in the vicinity of Brittany. Cuach Cores was the last of the three to leave. The latest reports suggest that Cores left Algeria yesterday and is already making quick progress.   

Cuckoos, or Cuach as gaelige, are a summer migrant to Ireland. Adult birds are resident here from April to early July, having spent the winter on the African continent. They are a unique bird in Ireland as they lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and have no involvement in raising their young. Across Ireland, the Cuckoo has seen a 27% reduction in breeding distribution between the first national census, Bird Atlas (1968-1972), and the most recent Bird Atlas (2007-2011).


Further information 

More info on the 2023 release and tracking project here and you can visit the project page to track all the birds here