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Partial recovery of the population of corncrakes Crex crex in Britain, 1993-2004


, : Partial recovery of the population of corncrakes Crex crex in Britain, 1993-2004. Bird Study ember; 53(3): 213-224

Capsule Singing male Corncrakes increased more than two-fold over the study period. Aim To provide updated counts of the number and distribution of singing male Corncrakes in Britain and describe the implementation of schemes in which land management was modified to benefit Corncrakes. Methods Annual surveys of singing Corncrakes in the core of the range in Britain were undertaken between 1993 and 2004 and the total population of the species throughout Britain was assessed in 2003. Annual information on the extent and location of the various conservation management schemes was obtained from the authorities that administer them. Results Following a long-term decline, the count of Corncrakes in the core of the species' British range increased in ten of the 11 years since 1993. A survey of the core of the range in 2004 located 1040 singing males, a 2.3-fold increase on the 446 singing males located in the same area in 1993. A full survey of Britain and the Isle of Man in 2003 located 832 singing males in 81 10-km National Grid squares. This compares with 589 birds in 93 squares in the last full survey in 1998, and 480 birds in 83 squares in 1993. During 1993-2003, more than 70% of Corncrakes in the core area occurred in I-km National Grid squares in which conservation schemes were implemented. For males in squares with some conservation management, the average area of managed land to which each bird potentially had exclusive access was about 5 hectares. About half of the tall grass present in 1-km squares occupied by Corncrakes was included in schemes intended to modify mowing or grazing to reduce losses of nests and chicks. Conclusion There has been a partial recovery of the population of Corncrakes in Britain since 1993, reversing a decline that began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, the geographical range of the species, measured as occupied 10-km grid squares, has not increased. The recovery occurred during a period in which a significant area of land, to which the majority of Corncrakes had access, was entered into conservation management schemes intended to benefit the species. Estimated changes in breeding productivity likely to be associated with changes in grass-mowing management on the observed scale were approximately sufficient to account for the observed change in population trend.

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