Corncrake Project in Ireland

The Corncrake Conservation Project in Ireland began in 1991 as a joint initiative between BirdWatch Ireland and RSPB, with input from National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). Fieldworkers in the core areas of Donegal, the Shannon Callows, West Connaught and Co Fermanagh delivered a programme of research and management, including a grant scheme for farmers. In time, NPWS assumed full financial responsibility, with BirdWatch Ireland continuing as the main delivery agents.

During this time, the populations in the core areas had differing fortunes (see Population Trends), but the only management mechanism available for many years was the seasonal Corncrake Grant Scheme, which is offered to any farmer in the core areas who is prepared to delay mowing of hay until August or September and cut fields from the centre out. However it did not provide for more strategic approaches to improving habitat, such as the creation of new areas of early and late cover, which can take some years to establish.


Corncrake Conservation since 2010

NPWS manage the Corncrake conservation programme directly, deploying fieldworkers in the core areas, and since 2015 have deployed a BirdWatch Ireland fieldworker in Donegal.

A number of new Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for Corncrakes were designated and several new mechanisms for making payments to farmers were introduced in these SPAs. These included the Corncrake Farm Plan Scheme, a five year scheme addressing late cutting and the creation of early and late cover areas. (see

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine (DAFM) also introduced measures for Corncrakes in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) and most recently in the Green Low Carbon Agri-Enivironment Scheme (GLAS), see


2016 results


In 2016, 108 Corncrakes were recorded in Donegal and 60 pairs in West Connaught.  This is a 27% decline in the last two years, but since 2010, the national population has still increased by 26% overall.  Sadly however, frequent summer flooding since 2000 caused the loss of the Shannon Callows population and in 2016, for the second year in a row, no calling males were recorded there.


Corncrake populations in the core areas 2010-2016


For further informationon the Corncrake Conservaion Programme, contact NPWS directly at Ballinafad, Co Sligo, Tel 071 9666700071 9666700.

For more details on any aspects of BirdWatch Ireland's Corncrake work, contact Anita Donaghy on




 Habitat Management Projects

Fencing early cover areas off from sheep grazing,
Gola Island, Co Donegal, 2008. 


Creating grazing exclosure on Tory Island,
Co Donegal, 2009



Creating wild bird cover on Tory 2016

 BirdWatch Ireland's conservation programme for Corncrakes has been supported by the Heritage Council since 2010.  The Council has mainly been funding the creation and maintenance of early cover, particularly on Tory Island but also at the BirdWatch Ireland reserve at Termoncarragh.  The provision of early cover is a key requirement for breeding Corncrakes.


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