Spotting corncrakes in Scotland

The corncrake or landrail is one of Britain’s most endangered birds. The Isle of Iona is one of the best places in Scotland to see corncrakes as the hay and silage fields and also iris beds supply lots of cover for this rare and elusive bird which unfortunately is in decline. Mechanised agriculture isn’t as intensive on Iona as it is on the mainland which helps create ideal habitat for corncrakes.


Because Iona is one of the few corncrake strongholds in the UK, birdwatchers (twitchers) come from all over the country to see the bird and hear its distinctive crex crex call, usually between May and June. The summer months are the only time to see corncrakes in Scotland as they migrate in late summer to spend the winter in Africa.

The call of the corncrake is unmistakable and sounds like a comb being scraped on a piece of wood and the birds have been known to call all night long. Once the call is heard, the best way to spot a corncrake is to pinpoint its general location and keep a close eye for it sticking its head out from the undergrowth.

(Photo credit:  Yeliseev, Flickr)