Kenyan bird Onon, completes 26,000km Safari to Return Home.

Kenyan bird Onon

Now that people are not moving, thanks to COVID-19, a Kenyan Bird Onon with a `Friend` known as BAYAN, (who unfortunately didn`t make it) defied the rules and decided to do it anyway, I have been following their movement since last year (2019) up to Now, 2nd June when ONON made it back home in northern Mongolia, near the Russian border, where it will settle down to breed this winter. After overcoming the odds to record a whooping 28,000Kms, Incredible right? ONON the Kenyan bird was traced using a global location sensor (GLS) departed from Kenya on April 29, crossing the Arabian Sea, the India subcontinent, The Himalayas, and finally landed in China on May 4.

ONON and BAYAN as at-5-May-2020- June 2, 2020
ONON and BAYAN as at-5-May-2020- June 2, 2020

Migratory birds are fitted with small tracking devices known as geolocators. When the bird is recaptured, the data is downloaded and used to reconstruct its migratory path.

According to Beijing Birding,( A Chinese Birding and wildlife portal) here is Kenyan Bird ONON Safari Starting on 4th May up to 2nd June 2020 back Home.

4 May 2020 0130 local time

Kenyan bird ONON has almost made it!  His latest position puts him just 20km from landfall in Gujarat.. and BAYAN is on his tail… having left Somalia and following a very similar trajectory to ONON.  However, the last few signals seem to show that BAYAN has tacked north and, looking at the wind patterns, he should find good tailwinds that will take him all the way to India…  clever!

5 May 2020 

This is incredible.  BAYAN is now on a very similar trajectory to ONON, following in his wing flaps.  Hoping for more signals later today.

6 May 2020 0230 local times (Kenyan bird Onon)

ONON hasn’t taken much of a rest.  He’s moved another 800km and is now n far eastern Madhya Pradesh, c30km north of the town of Singrauli.

6 May 0358hrs – signals picked up by satellites show him in Bangladesh

Total journey: >6,300km

(Maximum) time taken: 6 days, 17 hrs and 21 minutes.

Note that the time is a maximum time taken as we do not know precisely when he left his position in Kenya.

Kenyan Bird ONON being released by Tuvshi of the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia.

10 May 2020 (Kenyan Bird Onon)

It appears that both Kenyan bird Onon and BAYAN His Friend) are taking a rest after their marathon journeys from Africa.  ONON remains in Meghalaya, c20km east of Patakata, and BAYAN is in Yunnan Province, China, c80km north of Kunming.  How long will they stay and who will be the first to take off again?  We’re expecting them to arrive in Mongolia around the very end of May.  Still more than 3,000km to go for BAYAN and around 4,500 for ONON!

11 May 2020

ONON seems to be enjoying a well-earned rest in Meghalaya.  He’s c4km NNE of Selsella.  BAYAN is also taking a break a little north of Kunming in China’s Yunnan Province.  Still, a long way to go, so we don’t expect them to rest for long…

Kenyan bird Onon and BAYAN still seem to be resting up for the final push to Mongolia.  Although set fair in eastern India and southern China, the winds in the Beijing area – the route they will likely take to Mongolia – are not good at the moment with fairly strong northerlies…  so waiting in India and SW China looks like a sensible tactic.

12 May 2020

Update 1930 local time:

ONON has flown another 750km east and is now in Myanmar.  He’s only 500km behind BAYAN who remains in China’s Yunnan Province.

A flight of more than 1,500km puts ONON in pole position. He’s now just 200km west of Wuhan in Hubei Province, China.

14 May 2020 (Kenyan bird Onon)

Another big move from ONON of >1,500km and he is now on the outskirts of Jingmen, a city of just under 3 million people c200km west of Wuhan in Hubei Province in China.  BAYAN has some catching up to do!

17 May 2020


Kenyan bird Onon has swung north and is now in Henan Province, c150km southwest of Zhengzhou.  Still around 1,700km to go to reach Khurkh, in Mongolia, where he was fitted with his tag.  No new signals from BAYAN since 12th.

BAYAN’s journey 7 June 2019 to 12 May 2020 at a glance: Mongolia – China – Myanmar – India – Bangladesh – India – Oman – Saudi Arabia – Yemen – Saudi Arabia – Eritrea – Ethiopia – South Sudan – Kenya – Uganda – Kenya – Tanzania – Mozambique – Malawi – Mozambique – Malawi – Mozambique – Zambia – Malawi – Tanzania – Kenya – Somalia – India – Bangladesh – India – Myanmar – China

31 border crossings involving 18 countries; total distance: c24,000km

As of early morning, on 19th May, ONON the Kenyan bird is still in Henan Province in China but we are now concerned about BAYAN.  It’s been a week since we last received signals and analysis of the most recent signals on 11th and 12th May show some temperature anomalies (significant fluctuations between day and night –  usually moderated by the body temperature of a healthy bird) which may be indicative that either the tag has fallen off the bird or BAYAN may have died.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that we receive some more signals but it may be the case that we have heard the last from BAYAN.

23 May 2020 (Kenyan bird Onon)

ONON has flown c500km north and is now in Shanxi Province, c20 km west-southwest of Xinzhou.  From the temperature data it looks as if he is inactive migration, so we may receive further updates very soon. He still has c1,200km to go to reach Khurkh in northern Mongolia, where we expect him to spend the breeding season.

26 May 2020

Kenyan bird Onon is on the last leg of his journey to northern Mongolia.  As of 0630 local times, he is over the Gobi Desert, just 400km from Khurkh in northern Mongolia, where he was fitted with his tag and where we expect him to spend the summer.

Border crossings by ONON: Mongolia – China – Myanmar – India – Bhutan – India – Nepal – India – Pakistan – Oman – Saudi Arabia – Yemen – Saudi Arabia – Eritrea – Ethiopia – KenyaTanzania – Zambia – Tanzania – Kenya – Somalia – India – Bangladesh – India – Bangladesh – Myanmar – China – Mongolia (27 involving 16 countries)

27 May 2020

ONON: As of 1530 local time on 27 May 2020 he is in the vicinity of Khurkh Bird Ringing Station, where he was fitted with his tag in June 2019, after a round trip of c26,000km, including 27 border crossings involving 16 countries.  Remarkable navigation and endurance.  And now he has no time to waste as he needs to set up his territory, defend it from competing males and mate with as many females as possible!

30 May 2020

Since his arrival, Kenyan bird Onon has been busy.  The map below shows his movements over the last two days.  We’re hoping our colleagues at Khurkh Bird Banding Station will catch sight of him and maybe also one or more of the other tagged birds with which we lost contact over the past few months.  Sadly, we don’t expect to hear about BAYAN, presumed dead in Yunnan Province, China.

2 June 2020

ONON is Home on his territory and hopefully enjoying visits from the local female cuckoos.  Some more photos below of ONON and the area where he was fitted with his tag.

Bayan tagged at the same time as Onon and believed to have died either from extreme weather or possibly eaten by predators somewhere along its migratory route, an indication of the dangers Onon braved.

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