ljubljansko barje

Corn Crake cohabiting with man

Corn Crake is a migratory bird. From its wintering grounds in Africa it returns at the end of April or in early May. Immediately after their arrival, the males begin to court the females, which usually arrive a few days after them. Night after night, the males utter their characteristic "rerrp rerrp" from the shelter of high grasses, until succeeding in getting their females. Male and female stay together only for a few days. The female builds a nest, but when starting to lay eggs at the end of May, the male leaves her and starts to court a new female.

Downy black young are hatched, which soon leave the nest. The female still feeds them for a few days and then leaves them to look for food by themselves. After a couple of weeks, the young set up on their own, although still not being able to fly.

If the vegetation is still high enough, the females nest again in July.

At the end of summer, the grown up Corn Crakes moult. At almost the same time they shed all their primaries and tail feathers. At this time they are flightless and, of course, particularly vulnerable. In September, when acquiring new plumage, they begin to migrate south, reaching their destination in two to three months. In February and March, they again set out for Europe to breed.

Corn Crake is a globally endangered species. In the last two decades, its population in Europe has been reduced by more than half, the main reason for such state of affairs being the loss of habitat needed by the species to breed. Wet meadows and litter woodlands have been superseded by intensively farmed (fertilised) meadows and fields, whereas montane grasslands as well as lowland meadows are becoming increasingly overgrown due to the abandoned mowing.

Rearing of the Corn Crake's brood is also threatened by increasingly early mowing, use of powerful mechanisation, and unsuitable manner of mowing.

The mowing system from the edge of a plot towards its centre is fatal for grassland bird species. The birds fleeing from the mowing machine at the end find themselves in a trap - in a small still unmown patch of bare meadow. Mowing from the centre of the meadow outwards or from one of its sides towards the other gives the birds more chances to flee to safety.