The corncrake bird, also known as corn crake bird, landrail bird, or Crex crex, is part of the order Gruiformes and the family Rallidae. The corncrake bird has many subspecies that are native to regions across Europe, Asia, and Africa.
This bird species is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List because it can be difficult to find in some areas due to modern agricultural practices and changes in land use.
Even though this bird has undergone significant population declines in recent years, it is still relatively widespread across its range, making it one of the most widely distributed rails in the world.
Crex crex birds are protected under the law in the UK, so it’s illegal to kill them or injure them without permission from the government. They’re also listed as a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species, meaning they’re an important part of the ecosystem and require protection.
The corncrake bird can be found in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, with the exception of Antarctica. The scientific name for this bird means crested crow and refers to the fact that these birds are active during twilight hours when many other birds have gone to sleep.
The Corn Crake is a landrail bird that can be found in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America. This elusive creature prefers to live close to the ground, near streams and freshwater wetlands.
They are monogamous creatures and produce one clutch of eggs each year. When they do so, they make their nest on the ground or in low vegetation like reeds or grasses. These birds feed primarily on insects, but will also eat slugs, earthworms, and sometimes small snails.
The scientific name of the corncrake bird is Crex crex
Range and habitat
The corn crake is a member of the rail family and is mainly found in Ireland, where it has become the country’s only native landrail. It can also be found in other parts of Europe, as well as southern Asia. The corn crake lives mainly in farmland and open fields, with a preference for damp areas like ditches and streams.
Size and weight
The Corncrake is a small landrail bird, its average length is 27 to 30 cm (11 to 12 inches), its wingspan is about 42 to 53 centimeters (17 to 21nches) and they weigh roughly 145 to 165 grams.
Feathers and plumage
If you ever have the opportunity to see one of these birds, its feathers are what sets it apart from other birds. The male has mostly white feathers with red and orange tips while the female is brown. It also has a crest on its head that looks like a tuft of white feathers.
After a period of about two months, the corncrake will start to molt. They will shed their down feathers and replace them with new ones that are soft and fluffy. They will then hide for a couple of days to let the new feathers grow before they go back to normal business.
If humans or other animals find them while molting, they can grab them very easily because they cannot fly during this time period so they rely on their long legs to escape predators. The male birds are the first to start molting and are usually finished by July. Females usually begin in August but may not be done until October.
This shallow cup nest is built on the ground in concealing vegetation near the singing post of the male. It is lined with dead leaves from the nearby vegetation. An egg clutch of 8-12 gray-green blotchy eggs is laid every day from early May onward.
Diet and foraging
The corncrake is a ground-living passerine bird, meaning it forages for food on the ground. Typically the size of an American robin, this long-legged songbird spends its days walking around meadows, forests and even city parks in search of insects to eat and seeds to take back to its nest. Because they do not fly very high or far when they are in search of food, it’s easy to see one.
Corncrake sound and vocal behavior
The cry of the corncrake is a loud, distinctive, monotonous grating sound, given at intervals of about 10 seconds. It is emitted during the breeding season by both sexes; but most commonly by the male, which has two resonant sacs on its vocal organ for producing these loud sounds. The cry varies in pitch and intensity, with six basic types.
There is no specific corncrake territory as such, though singing males do space themselves out. Once a male has attracted a female and mated, he will move some distance away and begin to sing to attract another mate.
It usually lays 8-12 gray-green blotchy eggs once a day from early May onward. If any of the eggs are lost, a replacement clutch will be laid. Incubation lasts for 16-19 days. The brood hatches synchronously.
The female alone incubates and raises the young.
The chicks leave the nest by the time they’ve reached a couple of days old, following their mother until they’re strong enough to feed themselves. A parent-young bond can be initially strong but is often short-lived.
In most cases, baby birds have left their mothers as early as 10 to 15 days old because of new nestings. At this point, they are capable of independent life, but will not be fully grown until they reach 34 to 38 days old. Second clutches of chicks stay with their mother for a few days longer than the first brood chicks.
Their lifespan is about 2 years, with the oldest recorded one being 3 years.
The corncrate is the UK’s largest member of the rail family. In general, the corncrake favors wet lowland areas. They tend to be most active in the morning and evening when feeding. Like other rails, it can run quickly on a variety of surfaces but prefers to hop or walk while feeding or looking for food on the ground.
As well as farmland, they will nest near marshy pools and estuaries in large numbers up to 100 pairs per hectare. For nesting purposes, they are usually territorial during the breeding season. Pairs may return to the same territory year after year and their territories may overlap with those of neighboring pairs.
Diseases and threats
They are vulnerable to predation by terrestrial mammals and raptors and also loss of habitat due to agricultural intensification. Predation poses a risk because breeding pairs and broods can be completely wiped out in a single event.
The corncrake is also susceptible to poaching, given the value in its eggs, feathers, skin, meat, and claws. Illegal trapping continues in Belgium, France, and Ireland where they are hunted for sport as well as taken for the lucrative Chinese trade.
Since 1970, there has been a 76% decrease in range in Britain and Ireland, accompanied by unprecedented declines in numbers.
In the 1990s, the species had been declining so rapidly that it could have gone extinct within 10-20 years in the British Isles if it had continued.
Due to conservation measures at the core of their territory, corncrake bird numbers stabilized after they reached the lowest point in 1993 with 480 males in Britain and in 1994 with 129 males in the Republic of Ireland.
As of 2019, there were just under 900 corncrake males recorded in Britain.
Conservation and management
The corncrake is the national bird of Ireland and is recognized as a near-threatened species. Their habitats are being destroyed at an alarming rate, but with such a small population remaining, extinction could happen in the next ten years.
Measures need to be taken immediately to conserve and manage their habitats. One way that can be done is by planting marsh plants like phragmites australis because they are native to Europe and provide shelter for wildlife.
There needs to be more education about how rare these corncrake bird species are so people know what can be done for them before it’s too late.