Crex crex

Physical characteristics: Corncrakes are a blue-gray color on the face, neck, and breast. The backs are a streaked brownish color. They range from 10.6 to 12 inches in length (27 to 30 centimeters) and from 4.6 to 7.4 ounces (129 to 210 grams) in weight.

Geographic range: Corncrakes breed in Europe and central Asia, then migrate to northern and eastern Africa for the winter.

Habitat: Corncrakes inhabit grasslands during both the breeding season and the winter.

Diet: Corncrakes eat insects, spiders, and other invertebrates as well as seeds and grass. They look for food under the cover of vegetation, rather than foraging in the open.

Behavior and reproduction: Corncrakes are particularly active in the morning and at dusk, although males may call all night. Corncrakes are serially polygamous, meaning males mate with multiple females, but have only one breeding partner at a time. Nests are cup-shaped and built on the ground, usually hidden in dense vegetation. Six to fourteen eggs are laid at a time, and hatch after sixteen to twenty days. Only females incubate eggs. Chicks become independent at ten to twenty days.

Corncrakes and people: Corncrakes are hunted for food. They are particularly vulnerable during their migration.

Conservation status: Corncrakes are considered

Vulnerable due to the loss of much of their grassland habitat areas. ■

FOR MORE INFORMATION Books:

del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal, eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 3, Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, 1996.

Perrins, Christopher, ed. Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2003

Taylor, P. B., B. Taylor, and B. van Perlo. Rails: A Guide to the Rails, Crakes, Gallinules, and Coots of the World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.

Web sites:

"Rallidae (Rails and Coots)." The Internet Bird Collection. http:// www.hbw.com/ibc/phtml/familia.phtml?idFamilia=46 (accessed on April 25, 2004)

"Family Rallidae (Coots and Rails)." Animal Diversity Web. http:// animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/classification/Rallidae. html#Rallidae (accessed on April 25, 2004)

"Crakes, rails, coots, gallinules." Bird Families of the World, Cornell University. http://www.es.cornell.edu/winkler/botw/rallidae.html (accessed on April 25, 2004)

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