The corncrake population has increased by 35% in the last five years, according to a new survey released today (Thursday, August 10) by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

A total of 218 corncrake breeding territories were recorded in 2023, up by 10% on 2022 and exceeding 200 for the first time in a decade.

A recorded 250 farmers and landowners now manage close to 1,500ha of land for corncrakes.

The numbers of corncrakes recorded in the core breeding areas of Donegal, Mayo and Galway have increased by 15% since 2022.

Since 2021, the Corncrake or Traonach LIFE Project, a five-year project funded through the EU and coordinated by the NPWS has been working on a number of measures to prevent the decline of the corncrake.

Data about the corncrake population is then gathered on an annual basis.  

The corncrake is listed on the red list of Conservation Concern, given significant decreases in both numbers and range in Ireland and other EU countries.

Data from the project shows a number of measures which are effective in improving the bird’s habitat.

The effective measures include:

  • The creation of large patches of nettles or crops for corncrakes to hide in;
  • Delaying grass mowing into mid-August enables them to raise broods of chicks in safety;
  • Mowing fields from the ‘centre–out’ rather than from the ‘outside- in’ can reduce chick mortality by up to 60%.

Responding to the survey findings, Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, said that the increase in corncrakes is “remarkable and a testament to the hard work and commitment of so many”.

“As this project has shown, the NPWS is committed to working in cooperation with landowners across our protected area network to deliver for both people and nature,” Minister Noonan said.

New developments for increasing the corncrake population include a “corncrake habitat scorecard”.

This aims to inform a results-based scheme for farmers operated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

Manager of the Corncrake LIFE project, who also oversees the NPWS Corncrake Programme, Dr. John Carey said:

“A huge debt of gratitude has to go out to all the farmers, advisors, contractors and members of the local communities who work with us across Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Galway and Kerry.

“This success really belongs to them, and they deserve it having put in such a monumental effort.”