Northern Ireland news

Four calling male corncrakes recorded on Rathlin Island

The RSPB NI has reported that four calling male corncrakes have been recorded on Rathlin Island for first time since the early eighties. Picture by Northcoast Nature/Tom McDonnell
Marie Louise McConville

FOUR calling male corncrakes have been recorded on Rathlin Island for the first time since the early 1980s.

The corncrake, known for its distinctive `crex-crex' call, is one of the north's rarest but best loved birds.

It is a red-listed species, meaning it is of high conservation concern as numbers have been in sharp decline.

Rathlin is the only place in Northern Ireland home to the secretive bird and has been a focus for the RSPB to create the habitat for a corncrake comeback.

For the last six years, at least one calling male has been heard and in late April, two males arrived and established on the island, with their behaviour indicating they had attracted mates.

Two new males were then recorded on Wednesday.

Liam McFaul, RSPB Rathlin Island warden, said: "There’s no doubt that there were four birds in four different locations.

"It would be nice if all four got mates and stayed on the island, but there’s always a chance that one or two might leave again and settle elsewhere."

Mr McFaul will continue to monitor the birds, which are all within a half-mile radius of each other.

"We’ve worked closely with landowners and with all the habitat work we eventually had one bird coming back, then a few years later two birds, then one and now it’s up to four," he said.

"So we’ve been working towards this for a long time."

As corncrakes are easily spooked, members of the public have been asked not to try to get close to the birds, which are on private land.

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