Although the global population is considered stable, in Ireland the Corncrake is a species of high conservation concern in Ireland due to long-term declines. The population of Corncrakes in Ireland has been monitored annually since 1993 (by recording how many male birds are calling at night-time) and is critically low, with 151 calling males recorded in 2018. Donegal remains the national stronghold, with 90 confirmed calling males. West Connacht, which comprises the western seaboards of counties Mayo and Galway, held 59 males. Two calling males were recorded in Co. Sligo.
Restoration of the Corncrake population is an important component of my Department’s overall work on species protection. Measures to protect the Corncrake include the designation of 9 Special Areas of Protection (SPAs) for the protection of breeding corncrake populations in Ireland. The offshore islands, particularly off Donegal, are of critical importance. Conservation measures in 2018 included habitat management and the administration of grant schemes to promote beneficial land management for the species.
The National Parks & Wildlife Service Farm Plan Scheme for Corncrakes offers incentives to landowners to create and manage habitat for Corncrakes. Landowners nominate plots they would like to work on and receive payment for habitat creation and putting management measures in place for Corncrake. In 2018, there were 10 farmers in the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme delivering 63.52ha of habitat for Corncrake.
The NPWS also operates the Corncrake Grant Scheme, where landowners who have Corncrake calling on or near their land receive a grant for adopting Corncrake friendly mowing practices. In 2018, 125 participants entered the Corncrake Grant Scheme (CGS), covering an area 352.78ha nationally.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine operates a Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environmental (GLAS) Corncrake Measure, which aims to create and maintain cover and nesting shelter for Corncrakes during breeding season (April to September). Farmers undertaking the measure are required to commit to provision of early cover dominated by broad-leaved plant species e.g. Iris or nettle, and grazing, mowing, topping and/or other field operations requiring the use of machinery are not permitted from 10 March to 10 August annually.
In 2018, there were 64 GLAS participants with 209ha of land planned for delivering Corncrake habitat.
Following decades of decline, the breeding population of corncrakes has stabilised, albeit at low numbers. My Department will continue to work with farmers and landowners towards the conservation of this species in Ireland and I look forward to seeing improved population numbers as a result of these measures.