By Laura Hannot
Corncrakes are threatened by global extinction but the 2022 numbers show progress in their conservation status. Corncrake/Traonach Life’s main objective is to protect this iconic bird nesting in Ireland and their recent figures show hope for the bird. However, corncrakes are not yet safeguarded.
An iconic Irish bird
Everybody in Ireland has once or another heard about this famous bird that is the Corncrake. Very secretive, it is hard to see it but often makes its presence known through sounds.
“Their call is 94 decibels,” says Patrick Fitzmaurice, Community Engagement Officer for Corncrake/Traonach Life, and is more often heard at night and evening in thick vegetation such as grassland (meadow, rough pastures).
“The Corncrake has a delicate lifestyle,” says Patrick and needs help to survive in Ireland. Indeed, this exceptional species only lives two to three years which is incredibly short for a bird. They even end up flightless at some point in the year when changing feathers. This makes them more vulnerable to predators.
This organisation work for the preservation of the beloved Irish bird. Working closely with farmers, landowners and local communities they hope to make Ireland a better place for this species.
Threatened by the modernisation of farming areas and the cutting of the crops where the birds nest, Corncrake Life has different initiatives in place to reduce the damages.
“We pay farmers to cut the grass slower, 5km/h slower than usual,” says Patrick. This technique called Wildlife Friendly Mowing (WFM), is used in agreements between farmers and CornCrake/Traonach Life. It consists of mowing the field 5km/h slower and starting from the centre so Corncrakes are pushed to the edges of the fields where there is an escape. Cutting the grass from the outside and working inwards, as people normally would, the birds get pushed further into the field and trapped with a high risk of mortality to the machines.
Positive 2022 numbers
On Twitter, Corncrake Life confirmed that 197 males during the breeding season have been recorded. It shows an increase of 4.8 per cent compared to 2021.
Donegal and West Connacht
Almost 56 per cent of the Irish corncrakes breed in Donegal. 110 corncrakes were observed in 2022, but this is nine fewer than in 2021. This region has seen a small decrease but the numbers in West Connacht are more positive.
In the West part of the country, an increase of nearly 29 per cent compared to 2021 can be celebrated with 85 birds recorded. This region has 43 per cent of the national population.
Even if the 2022 numbers are positive, any species of bird can have an off-season. Over the years their numbers can naturally peak and trough so it’s important to look at longer trends to see the conservation impacts that Corncrake/Traonach Life has on our beloved Irish wildlife.
Even with this, last year’s numbers for the corncrake are encouraging and certainly seem a step in the right direction.
We are busy preparing for the coming season but also taking the chance to look back over 2022 and examine how Irelands' corncrakes are getting on.
Here are a few key stats:
— Corncrake/Traonach LIFE (@CorncrakeLife) February 10, 2023