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Protection and conservation status

Tuesday 23 July 2013, by Julien Lusson

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Portection status

Global protection status

The Corncrake is protected under :

  • The Bird Directive on the conservation of wild birds (79/409 EC of 6 April 1979)
  • The Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats of 19 September 1979
  • The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals

Protection status in France

The Corncrake is fully protected in France under the Ministerial Order of 17 April 1981 listing the birds protected throughout the country (JO 19/05/1981), as amended by the Order of 3 May 2007 (JO 16/05/2007).

It is one of the species under the Order of 9 July 1999 (JO dated 08/28/1999), establishing the list of protected endangered vertebrates in France and whose range exceeds the territory of a single department.

Any decree concerning detention, transportation, use or damage will remain under ministerial and not prefectural jurisdiction.

***The Corncrake is on the verge of extinction in France

As shown by monitoring carried out by researchers, the population of the Corncrake has declined over the last few years. Nevertheless, where the population still remains in alluvial valleys, it receives much attention from naturalists. Since 2005, the Corncrake has benefitted from a national action plan whose main objective was to reverse the downward trend, so that it has now recovered its population level of the 90’s, i.e. 1 200 to 1 300 calling males. As recently as 2011, only 295-320 had been counted !

The main threats for the species are habitat loss and mortality due to mechanised mowing using “improved” high-speed modern machines. As meadows are cut more efficiently and faster, more broods are being destroyed.

The national action plan did not produce the expected results because it relied mainly on the implementation of agri-environmental measures, involving payments to farmers for conserving and managing natural grasslands according to contractual agreements.

Unfortunately, the most useful conservation measure consists in delaying the mowing of hay meadows until after fledging, a more restrictive policy than the general agro-environmental measures, and one that the farmers only implemented on a voluntary basis. Thus mowing has not been late enough over sufficiently extensive areas, and the decline of the Corncrake in alluvial valleys, even those in Natura 2000 areas, continues. Extinction is possible at several sites where the Corncrake was common a few years ago : the Seine valley, the Charente valley upstream from Angoulême, the Aube valley, ...

However, where appropriate conservation measures have been possible, they have proven to be effective in stabilizing numbers: these include protection of natural grasslands, delaying cutting of hay until July 15, maintaining water levels, and better enforcement of protection measures in areas where they are enforceable. These conservation measures have been implemented in the Basses Vallées Angevines near Angers (Western France), where the conditions are more suitable. Three quarters of the national population was censused there this spring !

Conservation actions need to be implemented as soon as possible in all sites where the Corncrake still occurs. This requires significant investment in the field and a permanent relationship with the farmers concerned. But raising awareness of the value of biodiversity must precede such action, because conservation will only be effective if it is seen to be beneficial and consequently encouraged by local and farming authorities.

Conservation statuts

**In the wolrd

Having undergone dramatic declines throughout its range, the Corncrake is now considered a threatened species. In 2000, the Corncrake was classified as "Vulnerable" according to the criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This justified the establishment of an international action plan. In 2004, the Corncrake’s global status was reviewed in the light of new data including from Russia and Belarus. As a result, the species is no longer regarded as globally threatened, but as "Near Threatened", a status maintained during the review of the Red List in 2008.
Since 2010, the Corncrake is considered as "Least Concern" species.

**In France

In 1999, the Corncrake was regarded as an "Endangered" species in the book "Oiseaux menacés et à surveiller en France (ROCAMORA, G. & YEATMAN-BERTHELOT, D. ; 1999) - SEOF & LPO, Paris, 560 p.).

"The risk of extinction of the Corncrake in the next decade was discussed in light of the results of the 2006 survey. This risk is a current issue and has probably been deteriorating despite apparently steady numbers. The population decline on large sites proves a decline of population dynamics. Breeding success and/or survival of adult individuals have declined because of the threats that remain".

Global conservation action