© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, M. & W. von Wright (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.


Crex crex

  • Name also: Corn Crake, Landrail
  • Family: Rails – Rallidae
  • Appearance: Seldom seen, but more often heard, on summer nights in farmland. Similar in appearance to Water Rail, but beak short and blunt. In flight, their wings appear reddish brown, and their legs dangle down trailing beneath their tails.
  • Size: Length 22–25 cm, wingspan 42–53 cm, weight 129–210 g.
  • Nest: Made of a few pieces of dry grass scattered in a depression among dense vegetation.
  • Breeding: 6–14 eggs laid in May–June, incubated by female for 14–21 days. Fledgling s leave the nest just a few hours after hatching, learn to find food for themselves within 3–4 days, and learn to fly within 30–35 days.
  • Occurrence: Breeds in meadows and cultivated fields. Numbers declined steeply during the 20th century, most likely due to changes in farming practices, but have since recovered slightly over the last couple of decades. Present Finnish breeding population estimated at 2,000–8,000 pairs (variations may be due to the effects of varying weather conditions during migration).
  • Migration: Nocturnal. Leaves Finland between August and October. Returning males may first be heard calling in farmland in early May. Little known about migratory behaviour. Winters in Africa.
  • Diet: Invertebrates, seeds, shoots.
  • Calls: A harsh, mechanical, rasping call repeated frequently through the evening and night.

Corncrakes resemble small grouse in their shape and colouring, though they belong to the rail family within the order of cranes and their allies (Gruiformes). They are generally yellowish brown in appearance, with dark speckling on their upper parts and more elongated dark crosswise streaks on their flanks and underparts. Their wings are rusty brown in colouring. Their legs are reddish brown, their beaks are pale brown with a dark tip, and their irises are pale brown.

Corncrakes are seldom seen due to their shy and retiring nature. In flight they have fluttering wing movements, their wings appear rounded, and their legs trail beneath their tails.

Other species from the same family

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