Onon, a Mongolian cuckoo, has found internet stardom in recent months as his migratory progress has been followed by many online. His journey has been featured on the BBC Radio 4 program ‘The Cuckoo’, which aired in April 2020 and followed by many via The Mongolian Cuckoo project Twitter account that has been making updates on the bird’s progress. Onon was one of five cuckoos tagged in Khurkh Bird Banding Center in northern Mongolia in June last year. His name was chosen by local school children in a competition and derives from the name of a river, just north of where he was tagged. Their journey from the northern hemisphere south to Zambia and back is an epic multiple month journey that crosses oceans and continents – an arduous journey hard to imagine for such a small bird!
Sad news has come this October 2020 however as what is believed to be Onon’s last satellite signal was recorded from Yemen on October 1st, 2020. The signal came just after Onon had just crossed the Arabian Sea from India, two months after he first set off from his winter home in Zambia. In the 16 months that his migration was being tracked by the project, Onon crossed 33 national borders and flew nearly 40,000km. His extensive travels reveal the natural world as even more extraordinary than we can imagine, and that many were jealous of even in this time of worldwide travel lockdown and restrictions on free movement globally due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Possible speculations on why Onon came to presumably perish in Yemen could be the cause of succumbing to predation from a larger animal or, more disturbingly, caught as food as a result of the ongoing famine threat there. Onon’s story tells a wider one of the dangers and challenges faced by the thousands of migrating birds who make similar journeys across the world each year.