Ornis Hungarica. vol.24(2). (2016) p.1-17.
Preserving an obscure bird: achievements and future challenges of Corncrake (Crex crex Linnaeus, 1758) conservation in Hungary
The Corncrake is a strictly protected species in Hungary and a qualifying species of many Natura 2000 sites. Despite its Least concern global conservation status, it receives much attention and was elected as “Bird of the Year” by MME BirdLife Hungary in 2016. In this paper, we estimate its population trends and analyse the suitability of the protected area system and agri-environment schemes for the species. We compiled information on major threatening factors and conservation measures applied for the species. We reviewed international publications on the ecology and conservation management of the species to extract information for practical conservation. We estimated that 500–2000 pairs of Corncrakes breed in Hungary. Although their breeding sites are well covered by protected areas, Natura 2000 sites (42%) and High Nature Value Areas (67%), their population has declined by 55% over the last 20 years. We found that most of the major threatening factors are addressed by conservation management, and appropriate measures are applied in most cases. Recent research findings and recommendations by the BirdLife International Corncrake Conservation Team suggest that mowing of grasslands around nesting places should be delayed until 1–15 August either in the entire field or at least on 2 hectares around nests. Prescriptions of agri-environment schemes should also be adjusted to the above requirements and more farmers should be encouraged to enrol in Corncrake conservation programmes. We strongly suggest that more emphasis should be devoted to combat important threats for the most important breeding sites such as aridification and flooding.