Corncrake (Crex crex)


Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family:    Rallidae
Size:    Length: 10 to 12 inches (28 to 30 cm)  Wingspan: 18 to 21 inches (46 to 53 cm)
Weight: 18 to 21 ounces (510 to 595 grams)
Diet: Seeds, grains, insects, worms, frogs, slugs and snails
Distribution: Europe, Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean
Young:  7 to 12 chicks, twice a year
Animal Predators:  Unknown
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: Unknown



·     Corncrakes are related to domestic chickens.

·     Their scientific name comes from the call they make, which sounds like “crek-crek.”

·     They were officially designated as extinct in Northern Ireland in 1993.

·     The corncrake is featured on stamps from around the world, including a 1995 Latvian stamp

·     The corncrake is an accomplished traveller as it flies up to 6,250 miles (10,000 km) during migration. 



Corncrakes are medium-sized birds with mottled grey, black and brown feathers and black eyes. They have a short, deep bill, strong legs and a short, stumpy tail. 



Corncrakes are found mainly in hayfields and grasslands across Europe and Asia. When their populations were larger, corncrakes occasionally crossed the Atlantic during migration time and were sometimes seen in the United States and Canada. Corncrakes migrate during the winter to the Mediterranean and Africa.


Feeding Habits

Corncrakes eat seeds, grain, insects, worms, frogs, slugs and snails. The use of insecticides has affected corncrakes, because the numbers of the insects they rely on for food have declined. 



Males attract females with a loud “crek-crek” call. When a female approaches a male, he struts back and forth and may even offer her a gift of food. They build a nest, shaped like a shallow cup, and line it with leaves and soft grass, concealed in a meadow or field among tall grass and plants. The corncrake has two broods each summer: the first clutch is laid in May or June, and the second clutch is laid as soon as the first brood is reared in July or August. When the eggs have been laid, the female incubates them for the next 16 to 18 days. Once hatched, the chicks are fuzzy and black and can run around by the following day. At five weeks of age, the young learn to fly and leave the nest.  



These rare birds are seldom seen because they only come out after sunset and tend to keep hidden in tall grass. They can be heard, however, because they love to sing and call to each other throughout the night, especially during mating season. Although corncrakes are capable of flying, they usually prefer to run.



Corncrake numbers have dropped to dangerous lows due to agricultural modifications in the late 20th century. Hay was once trimmed by farmhands with hand-scythes, but when machinery was introduced in the 1940s to cut hay, these machines inadvertently mowed down nests and corncrake chicks as well as females, who although they could fly to safety, refused to abandon their babies. With the alarming decrease in numbers and the potential demise of this species a distinct possibility, steps have now begun to be put into place in Britain to ensure that the nests and chicks are not disturbed or threatened during hay-cutting season. The corncrake is protected in the UK under the Wildlife Order 1985.



Corncrake Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US