Meadow birds


Secret and nocturnal

Corncrakes are typical meadow birds. They are excellently camouflaged and live hidden in tall grass and herbaceous vegetation. Corncrakes are diurnal and nocturnal solitary birds, calling mainly at dusk and at night. 

They search for their food on the ground or pick it off plants. Their menu consists mainly of insects and other small animals, such as beetles, spiders, earthworms and small snails, which they capture with their short, powerful beak. Special delicacies in the African wintering sites are termites and dung beetles. Exceptionally, they also eat seeds.


Scientific nameCrex crex
CallCrex … crex … crex … crex
FoodSmall invertebrates, rarely seeds
In breeding groundsMay to August
Clutch size7–12
Broods per year1–2
Population trend in EuropeDeclining


More information

Find out more about the Corncrake.


The Corncrake is a breeding bird of open, largely woodless habitats with dense vegetation that is 25–100 cm high. It finds this habitat mainly in extensively used grassland areas, such as floodplains and stream valleys overgrown with tall shrubs. Herbaceous edges serve as connecting paths between different habitats, e.g. breeding and feeding areas, and provide refuge during mowing.


Corncrakes are migratory birds. From May to August they are in their breeding grounds, which include the German state of Lower Saxony and the Dutch province of Fryslân. 

This means they arrive later in spring than other meadow birds and stay longer in summer. When their chicks have fledged, both adult and young birds migrate to East Africa to spend the winter.


For the protection of the Corncrake, it is essential to conserve and restore suitable habitats. This includes, in particular, structurally rich wet grasslands. Areas with Corncrake occurrences may only be managed very extensively. 

In concrete terms, this means that meadows may not be mown before mid-August. It is also important that structures such as ditch edges remain unused and that not all meadows are mown at the same time. Not using fertilisers and pesticides is also necessary so that the vegetation is not too dense for the chicks but still contains enough food.