This website uses cookies for anonymised analytics and for account authentication. See our privacy and cookies policies for more information.

The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Rare birds could disappear from Scotland

This news post is over 6 years old

RSPB Scotland has said that corncrake numbers have dropped sharply

One of Scotland’s rarest birds is at risk of extinction.

Corncrakes are becoming increasingly vulnerable following a fall in their numbers for the third year running, RSPB Scotland has warned.

In 2017 only 866 calling males were recorded during RSPB Scotland’s annual survey. This is a drop of 17% from 2016, and down 33% from the 2014 high of 1,289 males.

There were glimmers of hope in some areas such as Barra and Vatersay with a 47% increase from last year but these numbers were outweighed by losses elsewhere; Benbecula’s population was down 64%, and Durness has seen a 53% drop.

The overall sharp decline has prompted concern from RSPB Scotland that the long term survival of the birds as a breeding species is now under threat.

The charity is calling for renewed action to ensure that Scottish Government, and the conservation community do all they can to work with landowners and crofters to protect corncrakes. Numbers haven’t been this low since 2003, when only 836 males were recorded.

Paul Walton, head of habitats and species at RSPB Scotland, said: “For many years the increases in corncrake numbers have been rightly celebrated as one of the great successes of agri-environment schemes, and a fine example of what can be achieved by crofters, farmers, government and conservationists working together.

“However, the gains made for this rare species now face being unravelled and lost, and their future is once again looking increasingly uncertain in Scotland unless action is taken."

Corncrakes are shy land dwelling relatives of coots and moorhens. Every year these small chestnut coloured birds migrate from their wintering grounds in Africa to breed in a few isolated pockets in Scotland, mostly on islands and the North West coast on crofts or farmland.

Reasons for the decline include the birds' naturally short lives, problems encountered during their migration and changes to agricultural schemes which had previously better protected their breeding areas.