RSPB warden confirms four calling male corncrakes in the Church Bay area, two established birds (believed to have found mates) plus two new arrivals - Rathlin is the only place in Northern Ireland home to this red-listed species
Four calling male corncrakes have been recorded on Rathlin Island for first time since the late ‘70s / early ‘80s.
The corncrake is a secretive bird known for its distinctive ‘crex-crex’ call. It is one of Northern Ireland’s rarest birds - a red-listed species (a bird of high conservation concern) - and their numbers have been in sharp decline since the 1980s. Rathlin is the only place in Northern Ireland home to this species and has been a focus for RSPB NI to create the right habitat for a corncrake comeback.
For the last six years, at least one calling male has been heard. This year, two males arrived in late April (24 and 29) and are established on the island, with their behaviour indicating they have attracted mates. Two new males were recorded yesterday (Wednesday), so if these new arrivals remain and attract a mate it will be a real conservation coup.
RSPB Rathlin Island warden Liam McFaul said: “I was very happy that we had two calling males, so to hear four yesterday was quite something. There’s no doubt that there were four birds in four different locations. It would be nice if all four got mates and stayed on the island, but there’s always a chance that one or two might leave again and settle elsewhere.”
Liam will continue to monitor the birds, which are all within a half-mile radius of each other. At least three of the birds have been heard in nettle beds created over the last decade by RSPB NI staff and volunteers to attract corncrakes to the field margins of Church Bay. The hope is to achieve a sustainable population of corncrakes, with four or five pairs regularly breeding.