Corncrake numbers increased to their highest level in Ireland

At least 197 calling male corncrakes have been recorded in Ireland in 2022, a 5% increase from the 188 birds recorded in 2021, according to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Five counties reported having birds, with Donegal reporting a population of 110, Mayo 62, Galway 23, and Sligo and Kerry each reporting one bird.

The Corncrake is a meadow bird that was badly affected by changes in farming practices over the decades which pushed it to the edge of survival in Ireland.

Among the reasons for the increase is the Corncrake LIFE project, which aims to revive the conservation status of the corncrake and ensure it remains a part of rural landscapes for years to come.

The project, which is in its second year and is managing almost 500ha of farmland in cooperation with landowners and farmers across Donegal, Mayo and Galway, was launched earlier this year by Minister of State with responsibility for heritage Malcolm Noonan.

The increase has been welcomed by Minister for Heritage Malcolm Noonan.

Corncrakes (crex crex), a shy, pigeon-sized member of the rail family that breeds in Ireland and Britain and throughout central Europe before migrating to Africa in the winter, are related to moorhens and coots.

They like to settle in early growing tall vegetation, including nettles, cow parsley and irises.

There they stay mainly hidden, raising a family in the tall grasses which provide shelter from predators for young corncrakes.

Changes to farming methods, including hay being mowed earlier in the year, have been blamed for the decline.

Farmers are encouraged to cut their fields later in the season and to cut from the centre of fields outwards to give the birds the chance to escape.

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