Corncrake (Crex crex)
Corncrake (Crex crex). Taken on North Uist on May 19th 2019.
Taken on North Uist on May 19th 2019.
(1/800th sec at f13. © David Hastings)


L: 27 - 30 cm; WS: 46 - 53cm

Corncrakes are members of the rail family, but differ from most members of this family in that they live on dry land. Corncrakes are surprisingly small; they are only a little bigger than a Blackbird. They have buff or grey-streaked brownish-black upperparts, chestnut markings on the wings, and blue-grey underparts with rust-coloured and white bars on the flanks and undertail. The strong bill is flesh-toned, the iris is pale brown, and the legs and feet are pale grey. In flight, their bright chestnut wings and trailing legs are unmistakable.

They are summer visitors to the British Isles, and migrate to Africa for the winter. They are almost completely restricted to western Ireland and western Scotland.

The Corncrake's breeding habitat is grassland, particularly hayfields. Modern farming practices often destroy nests before breeding is completed, hence the steep population decline.

Corncrakes are very secretive, spending most of their time hidden in tall vegetation, their presence only betrayed by their rasping call.

In the UK the Corncrake is on in the Red list of birds of high conservation concern because of major population declines both historically and recently. There are around 1000 breeding pairs here.


19-May-2019 : Balnarad, North Uist (3)