Corncrake (Corn Crake)
Distribution Britain 161 (-75.6%) Ireland 246 (-70.3%)
Numbers breeding: Britain 641 RBBP Ireland 158
European status: 90,000 (2% in Britain and Ireland =10)
British population trend: huge decline turned round recently
How likely are you to record it? 6 squares (0.1%) Ranked 160=
The loss of this bird is well documented and clearly caused by changes to agriculture. It breeds in rank, tangled vegetation particularly hay meadows. Towards the end of the 19th century it had started to decline as machine mowing of hay started. The hay was cut early so that the birds were unable to raise young and, later, silage was even worse. The declines accelerated and during the fieldwork for the first Atlas addition retreats were noted (especially Ireland) and sporadic records mainly of birds calling their scientific name crex in mainland Britain. The second Atlas has only 18 records in England and Wales over the four years. They were confined to the Western islands of Scotland, Orkney and parts of western Ireland. Corncrake recovery schemes were formulated, with Government funding, in both Scotland and Ireland. The farmers agreed emergency changes to the management of their hay crops and the declines have been halted, and reversed, just in time! In 1997 there were 637 in the core Scottish area, 4 (!) elsewhere in Britain and 3 in N. Ireland and in 1998 the Republic had 2(!) outside the core area with 149-153. There is still a long way to go but they are coming back from the brink!
Casey, C. 1998 Irish Birds: 6, 159-176.
Green, R.E. 1995 Bird Study: 42, 66-75.
UKBAP Scottish Office The Scottish Office & RSPB.
The following Bird On! sketch is available:
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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead