State bids to save corncrake’s future as the number of calling males falls to 140

The State’s bid to save the corncrake from national extinction suffered a further blow last year as the numbers of calling males fell to 140.

According to new figures, the number of corncrakes fell by 39% between 2014 and last year.

The 2017 census of the bird found that there were 140 calling males, a drop of 16.6% on the 168 calling males recorded here in 2016.

The 2016 figures in turn represented a 9% drop on the 183 corncrakes recorded in 2015. In 2014 there were 230 calling males.

The elusive bird, known for its rasping call, was once widespread across the countryside but the bird’s population has been decimated by mechanised farming — the corncrake nests in meadows.

It is now confined mainly to Donegal, Mayo, and Connemara.

The continuing drop in the corncrake numbers comes as the State devotes even more resources to maintaining a population of the bird.

Since 2012, the State has spent over €2.4m in various initiatives to save the corncrake.

Ireland is not alone in experiencing a sharp decline in the corncrake — official figures from Scotland show that the numbers have dropped by 32%, from 1,289 calling males in 2014 to 866 last year, prompting fears there that the species is headed for extinction there without more action.

In the detailed breakdown of the census here, it shows that the biggest loss sustained last year was in Donegal where numbers decreased by 16 to 92, with numbers in west Connemara declining by 14 to 46.

There was one calling male detected in Sligo and one detected in Kerry.

The supervisor of the corncrake programme, Marie Duffy, admitted she was perplexed as to why the population of the corncrake dropped again here last year, but pointed out that the drop in Scotland was similar.

She said the population of the bird is at the mercy of a number of external factors that authorities here have no control over.

The bird winters in Africa and its population there may be subject to loss as well due to climate changes.

Ms Duffy praised the role played by farmers in the Conservation Grant Scheme.

Last year, 92 farmers received €103,940 from the State for allowing 305 hectares be managed under the Conservation Grant Scheme.

On the programme to maintain corncrake numbers, Ms Duffy said: “We are doing all we can to maintain numbers.”


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