|Scientific name:||Crex crex|
|Bird Family:||Crakes & Rails|
Summer visitor from April to September.
A shy, secretive bird of hay meadows. The distinctive kerrx-kerrx call of the male often being the only indication of their presence. Adults show a brown, streaked crown with blue-grey cheeks and chestnut eye-stripe. Breast buffish grey with chestnut smudges on breast sides. Flanks show chestnut, white and thick black barring, fading on undertail. Wings bright chestnut, striking in flight. Short bill and yellow-brown legs. Prefers to run through thick cover, dropping quickly back into cover when flushed. Flight is weak and floppy. Large bright chestnut patches on wings and dangling legs are distinctive in flight
Males give a very loud, distinctive kerrx-kerrx call during the breeding season, which is repeated during the day in fits and starts, reaches a peak about dusk and continuing through the night till dawn. Its onomatopoeic Latin name seems to be derived from this sound
Corncrakes eat about four-fifths animal food and one-fifth vegetable matter. The animal part consists mainly of insects, but slugs, snails and earthworms are also eaten. Plant material taken includes seeds of grasses and sedges, eaten in larger quantities in the autumn.
Breeding is from mid May to early August. Nests on the ground in tall vegetation. Most nests are in hay fields. The greenish-grey mottled eggs hatch after seventeen days of incubation. For the first four days after hatching the chicks are fed by their mother. They then learn rapidly to feed themselves. Flight takes place in a little over thirty days. Females have two broods, the first hatching in mid June and the second one in late July to early August. There can be as little as two weeks between the chicks fledging from the first brood to laying a second clutch.
Major annual conservation measures to protect this endangered species.
Formerly a common summer visitor, Corncrakes have suffered drastic population declines this century and are threatened with global extinction. Now only present in small numbers in North Donegal and Western parts of Mayo and Connaught. This decline is due in most part to intensive farming practices including early mowing to make silage and mechanised hay making practices which have destroyed nests and driven Corncrakes from old habitats. Now Corncrakes are confined to areas where difficult terrain precludes the use of machinery and where traditional late haymaking still takes place.
Winters in South East Africa.
Blog posts about this bird
Positive news for Ireland's Corncrake population but numbers remain critically low
Conserving the Great Yellow Bumblebee in Co. Mayo
BirdWatch Ireland's Termoncarragh Meadows Nature Reserve, Mullet Peninsula, Co. Mayo: meadow with extensive Red Clover (Dave Suddaby)With more diligent searching we have, in recent summers, started to find the nests of these very special insects within the earthen boundary walls and within grass tussocks, which has given us a rare opportunity to study their nesting behaviour. However, very little is known about their requirements, especially in an Irish context, and so to further our knowledge, research was carried out in summer 2019 by University College Dublin. The research study confirmed that the Great Yellow Bumblebee is a rare bee, even on the Mullet Peninsula which is home to the only remaining population currently known, and that BirdWatch Ireland's reserve areas hold the highest numbers. The study also confirmed that they favour foraging on Common Knapweed, although they do also forage on a variety of other plants, particularly clovers and vetches. Our management at our reserves remains focused on breeding waders and breeding Corncrakes, although this works well for these bumblebees and other pollinators, in that we provide good stands of foraging plants such as Kidney Vetch, Red Clover and Common Knapweed for them in the grassland structure. Then when it comes to the autumn, delaying mowing, which is good for Corncrakes, also benefits these foraging plants in allowing them to set seed. At this time we also leave areas unmown, which brings additional benefits, such as providing areas for winter hibernation for the bumblebees.
Great Yellow Bumblebee at BirdWatch Ireland's Termoncarragh Meadows Nature Reserve (Dave Suddaby)The Great Yellow Bumblebee is a rare bee, classified as Endangered on the Irish Red List. It is a very distinctive bee, being 'big and blonde', and although they are active from May, if you are keen to see one then the best time to visit is from late June to August, especially on a fine sunny day when the workers are actively out foraging. Beware though that a similar-looking big blonde bee, the Moss Carder Bumblebee, will also be out foraging in numbers at this time! For more information - • Investigating the ecology of the Great Yellow Bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) within the wider bumblebee community in North-West Ireland • All-Ireland Pollinator Plan: Protecting Rare Pollinators guidelines: Great Yellow Bumblebee Dave Suddaby Reserves Manager