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Bringing the corncrake back from the brink

The call of the corncrake used to herald the arrival of spring. But nowadays, most people will likely never hear their ‘crex crex’ song, which gives the corncrake its Latin name, and sounds like drawing a comb across a matchbox.“

Image of Corncrake in field

 The decline of the corncrake in Ireland

The corncrake is unique as a breeding bird in rural Ireland and has been a part of our heritage for many generations,” says Denis Strong, Divisional Manager with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). “

We have an obligation to ensure their future in Ireland, as extinction is forever.

”The bird used to be widespread in Ireland, but there are now only 151 breeding pairs in total found along the north coast and west of Ireland, declining by 85% since the 1970s. Changes in agricultural practices and modern mechanised machinery have led to the rapid decline.

Denis oversees the delivery of the Corncrake Grant Scheme (CGS), a voluntary grant scheme available for landowners with corncrakes calling on or near their land. And from January 2020, he also oversees the new LIFE Atlantic Crex project working on conservation efforts, which will run for five years. The project aims to deliver a 20% increase in the corncrake population by 2024.“

All the core breeding areas are in private ownership, so the goal is to stop the decline by raising awareness and expanding the core areas by habitat management, working with key landowners.”

“The public have also become important to this project, as they send in reports of birds heard outside the core areas.”

 

The contribution of the EU LIFE programme

The EU LIFE programme has ensured the future of the corncrake as a successful breeding bird in Ireland, providing €4.3m in funding to the NPWS.

“This fund is a vital lifeline and enables us to draw up long-term plans for Crex conservation. The impact of our work to date has ensured the survival of this unique breeding bird and we hope to continue this good work into the future.”

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