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New hope to hear corncrake sing again

PUBLISHED: 07:30 29 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:06 22 October 2010

They are one of the country's rarest and most secretive birds - but soon corncrakes could be flourishing again, thanks to a Norfolk nature reserve. Chicks from Pensthorpe, near Fakenham, will be released at an RSPB reserve in the fens, in order to help reintroduce them to England.

They are one of the country's rarest and most secretive birds - but soon corncrakes could be flourishing again, thanks to a Norfolk nature reserve.

Chicks from Pensthorpe, near Fakenham, will be released at an RSPB reserve in the fens, in order to help reintroduce them to England.

Like the cuckoo, the corncrake is usually seen but not heard. Fifty years ago its "crex-crex" call was a familiar rural sound, but mechanisation of farming destroyed their nests and led to the population being wiped out in England.

For the past six years the RSPB has been trying to reintroduce the birds at its Nene Washes nature reserve, near March.

Now the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust will provide chicks for release at the Cambridgeshire reserve.

Pensthorpe manager Andrew Reeve said: "It is the only globally threatened bird that comes to England, so it is significant that we can do something for it. It is just as important as the tiger and the elephant.

"We are just chuffed to bits that we are able to work with the RSPB and help these birds. It is a major step forward for conservation."

Staff at Pensthorpe, who have been breeding corncrakes for the past 10 years, hope to send 25 to 30 chicks to the Washes this year, and many more next year.

Because the birds remember the stars above them and return to the same place every year, they must be moved as soon as they are independent, at just 10 to 14-days-old.

Mr Reeve said that large numbers are needed because so many die on their migration to Africa.

"It is a particularly gruelling journey and out of every 100 birds, only 15 return the following year to breed. So the project needs a lot of babies to make it viable."

Bill Jordan, who owns the reserve with his wife Deb and whose family owns Jordans Cereals, said: "The corncrake represents a key part of the British countryside which intensive farming had all but destroyed until the recent efforts of conservationists.

"We are excited about the opportunity to help to restore them to their native habitat."

Mark Avery, the RSPB's director of conservation said: "Sadly, in the last 50 years the corncrake has effectively become extinct in England.

"We know that Bill Jordan is also keen to see lost species restored to our countryside, so it is welcome news that Pensthorpe is to become an active partner in the project trying to bring this bird back to England."


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