Rare English birds breed at Whipsnade
Tuesday 18 July 2006
Conservationists at ZSL are delighted that rare English birds bred last year at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park have returned to breed at the spot where they were released.
Three male corncrakes reared as part of a ZSL UK Native Species conservation programme returned to their release site in June, marking the project’s biggest success so far.
It’s likely that some female birds also returned, but these are difficult to locate as they don’t call.
Corncrakes are dove-sized ground-nesting birds that used to be a familiar sight in the English countryside.
Changing agricultural methods destroyed some of their habitat and numbers declined when intensive farming encroached on their grassland homes.
Corncrakes were virtually extinct in the wild when ZSL joined the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and English Nature to start a breeding and reintroduction programme in 2001.
The project aims to reintroduce the corncrake to the Nene Washes near Whittesly, a wet grasslands area being managed specifically to provide returning corncrakes with optimum nesting habitats.
Corncrakes are bred and reared in captivity before being released onto the site when they are strong and healthy enough to survive their perilous migration to Africa. They return the following spring to nest.
The three Whipsnade-bred birds spotted at the Nene Washes this month (two brothers and their half-brother) were joined by a fourth bird of unknown origin.
It’s the first time such a strong chorus has been heard from this migratory bird in England for many decades.
ZSL UK Native Species programme manager Emily Funnell says: “We are absolutely delighted that three male corncrakes have returned to the release site in Cambridgeshire this year.
'This is a great success for the project and demonstrates the skill and dedication of ZSL's Bird Team at Whipsnade, who have continued to breed strong and healthy corncrake chicks for release into the wild.
'This project shows that captive breeding and release can be an excellent tool for conservation if a rare and threatened species is unlikely to recover on its own.'