Daily Drip

Flappy McFlapperson, Internet Famous Beijing Cuckoo, Has Died

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Sad news the last few days from @BirdingBeijing, one of China’s top twitcher Twitter accounts: Flappy McFlapperson – a “common cuckoo” who became internet famous due to her seemingly uncommon feats of flight – appears to no longer be with us:

For those who have been following Flappy’s incredible journeys, the above tweet caused considerable concern earlier this week. As the China-based New York Times reporter Chris Buckley put it:

Alas, two days later Birding Beijing confirmed followers’ worst fears in a post entitled Farewell Flappy. After assessing the signals from a tag attached to Flappy, Birding Beijing’s Terry Townshend wrote:

Sadly, the conclusion must be that Flappy McFlapperson perished sometime during the night of 14-15 May 2018.

If this is the first you’ve heard of Flappy, that post makes for a great overview of how the bird came to capture the hearts of people across the world, following a project started by three ornithology and wildlife-focused organizations and backed by several more:

It was on 24 May 2016, at Cuihu Urban Wetland in northern Beijing, that the first cuckoo, a female, was fitted with a tag as part of the Beijing Cuckoo Project, a collaboration between the Beijing Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (BWRRC), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Birding Beijing, and supported by the British Birds Charitable Trust, the Oriental Bird Club, Zoological Society of London and BirdLife International.  The project was designed to combine scientific discovery with public engagement.  The aims were twofold: first, to find out, for the first time, where cuckoos from East Asia spent the winter and how they got there, and second, to reach and enthuse the public about the incredible journeys made by Beijing’s birds (BTO’s work tracking cuckoos from the UK has demonstrated the potential for these iconic birds to engage and enthuse new audiences about the science of bird migration).

As for that name, well for that we have the students of Dulwich International School in Beijing to thank (with a nod to Boaty McBoatface of course).

Since then, Flappy has made an impressive impact, as Birding Beijing’s post explains:

Through regular social media in China and overseas, and articles in more traditional print and online media, she began to attract more and more followers as people marvelled at her incredible autumn migration that took her from northern Mongolia, across China and, via Yunnan Province, into South Asia, spending time in Myanmar, Bangladesh, India and Nepal.  When she set off across the Arabian Sea, she provoked an outpouring of awe and admiration that a Cuckoo from Beijing could make such a journey to Africa.

Of course, Flappy and her kind have been making this journey for millennia, so it was routine for her.  But for humans, discovering for the first time to where these birds migrate and the route they took to get there, the reaction was like a child unwrapping a wonderful new gift – faces lit up, voices rose excitedly and her followers, many of whom had never before taken notice of nature, began talking about the wonders of migratory birds.

The story may have now reached a sad end, but hopefully Flappy’s legacy will live on, having helped spur new interest in migratory birds and in the work of wildlife organizations in China. To this end, we recommend you follow @BirdingBeijing on Twitter and read the full farewell post on Flappy here.

Photo: Birding Beijing

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Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.

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