2010: Corncrake Breed and Release Project

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Zoological Society of London, Natural England, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust.


Project Overview

Corncrake birds are indigenous to the UK, and were once widespread from Scotland to South England and Wales. Since combine harvesters were introduced to farming in the 1950's the Corncrake's have been in serious decline, as ground dwelling birds, their nests and chicks are destroyed during harvest time.

With a short lifespan in the wild of a couple of years, including a migration to Africa for winter, the birds find their way by mapping the stars in the sky, therefore they will always try to return to the first sky they saw... This means when released into the safety of an RSPB nature reserve the birds can breed and live in a safe environment. The migration is now their only real risk, albeit a big one!


  • To breed chicks from captive adults.

  • To rear them without imprinting them on humans.

  • To give them a healthy fear of humans by only letting them see us when medical procedures and cleaning necessitate.

  • To hand them over to an RSPB officer.

  • To release healthy chicks at the RSPB's Nene Washes nature reserve in Cambridgeshire.

  • To monitor chicks on the reserve before they migrate, and monitor returning birds after migration.


During the 2010 Season we had:

  • A slow season but managed to release approx 70 birds.

  • During hatching chicks legs can become splayed, we were able to set straight 4 chicks legs to complete normality strong enough for release!

  • No unhatched eggs! meaning all were fertilised and incubated properly showing good hopes for future breeding seasons!

  • Just 2 chicks that had to be euthanaised  due to birth defects. (It would be very cruel to release birds who were not healthy or fit enough to survive, as this could lead to a long and painful death, it would also be unwise to breed from these birds).