Giving the corncrake a home

Corncrake, Crex crex. Oronsay RSPB reserve, Argyll. Scotland. May 2006.
Corncrake, Crex crex. Oronsay RSPB reserve, Argyll. Scotland. May 2006.

The RSPB is appealing for local landowners to help them save the threatened corncrake – by allowing the charity to clear their land of nettles!

Sadly, within a generation, corncrake have been virtually wiped out in Northern Ireland, largely due to changes in agricultural practices, and the last reported breeding pair in Northern Ireland was in the late 1990s.

However, they can still be found in large numbers on the west coast of Scotland and in Donegal within 30 miles of Rathlin Island.

Through its Giving Corncrake a Home project, the RSPB has been working for a number of years to entice the species back to Rathlin.

Every summer this charismatic bird makes a long distance trip from Africa, when they arrive they look for an appropriate habitat in which to breed. Corncrakes are shy, secretive birds and look for protective cover where they can call from and find food.

Early in the breeding season they use early growing tall vegetation like nettles to hide amongst and RSPB staff and volunteers have been working hard to provide more suitable early vegetation cover on Rathlin.

Work parties gather nettle roots from the mainland and ferry them over the Rathlin for replanting around the edges of hayfields and brambles are cleared to create ‘corncrake corridors’ that provide essential connectivity between areas of suitable habitat.

If you own nettle-rich land around the north coast and would be happy to allow the RSPB to dig deep for nature, they would love to hear from you.

Please note the land must be easily accessible, all livestock must be secured and a nearby source of running water is essential to wash the rhizomes and prevent contamination.

The charity is also always in need of more volunteers to help them with nettle digging and other tasks to help make ideal homes for corncrake.

For more information or to register your interest please contact Senior Conservation Officer Claire Barnett on or call 028 9049 1547 during office hours.