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Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 19:42 GMT


Corncrake comeback

A corncrake and her crakelings: Numbers are on the up

One of Britain's most threatened birds is making a comeback.

Hear a Corncrake
Research carried out by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds shows that numbers of the corncrake have increased since they were last counted.

This summer a fourth census of corncrakes in Britain revealed that the total population of singing male birds went up by 23% from 480 to 589, since the last full census in 1993.

The corncrake - a shy relative of the common moorhen - has a distinctive rasping cry that was once a familiar summer sound throughout many parts of Britain.

But its natural habitat of reedbeds, iris and nettles was frequently mowed down during harvests, destroying nests and chicks.

[ image: Sightings have been logged on the Corncrake Hotline]
Sightings have been logged on the Corncrake Hotline
Now farmers have been given incentive payments to delay mowing until after 1 August to give young corncrakes - called "crakelings" - time to hatch and escape.

But the Scottish islands are the exception to this trend of good news.

This year the census on core areas recorded the first drop since 1993.

Only 543 calling birds were counted compared to 637 in 1997, a decrease of 15%.

Key areas that showed declines compared with 1997 were Lewis (down 33%), Barra (down 37%) and Skye (down 48%).

In England, at least six calling birds were found again at English Nature's Lower Derwent Valley National Nature Reserve - the last regular English breeding site - an increase on previous years.

Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB's director of conservation, said: "The unprecedented increase since the last full count five years ago is excellent news.

"This bird is at last on the road to recovery."

  • To report a corncrake sighting, call the Corncrake Hotline on 01767 680551.

    Details of date, time of day, place and habitat will all be needed to help confirm the record.

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