The Corn Crake bird (Crex crex) is also known as the landrail. The Corn Crake bird is a small bird belonging to the family ‘Rallidae’. The adult Corn Crake is 22 – 25 centimetres long and has mainly brown, heavily spotted upperparts, a blue-grey head and neck and reddish streaked flanks.
The Corn Crake bird has a short bill and shows chestnut wings and long dangling legs in flight. Both male and female are similar, however, in the immature bird the blue-grey is replaced by a buff colouring. The downy chicks are black, as with all rail birds.
The Corn Crake birds breeding habitat is not marshes as with most crakes, but, as the name implies, meadows and arable farmland. The Corn Crake bird breeds across Europe and western Asia, migrating to Africa in winter. The Corn Crake is very secretive in the breeding season, and can be heard considerably more than it can be seen. It is hard to flush, walking away through the vegetation.
The Corn Crake birds song, mainly heard at night and very early morning, is a repetitive, far-carrying ‘crex crex’, like two notched sticks being rubbed together. The Corn Crake feeds mainly on insects.
The Corn Crake bird is in deep decline across most of its range because modern farming practices mean that nests and birds are destroyed by mowing or harvesting before breeding is finished.
The best place to look and listen for Corn Crake birds in the UK is in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.