SCOTLAND'S corncrake population is dwindling, with this year's survey of calling males down to just 870, a small reduction on the year, but a severe decline since the species' recorded high of 1282 in 2014.

RSPB Scotland said that the results – gleaned from summer recording in areas known to host concentrations of the species – reinforced how vulnerable it had become. While numbers in the Outer Hebrides have increased overall in 2019 compared to 2018, this has been offset by declines elsewhere, including overall across the Inner Hebrides in the same period.

At the moment, corncrakes are helped largely through agri-environment schemes, where farmers and crofters are paid to ensure that there is good habitat for the birds. The RSPB said that the continuation of such agri-environment support would be vital to ensure the corncrake’s survival in Scotland, and benefit other species.

The charity's advisory manager Chris Bailey, said: “The 'crex crex' call of a male corncrake used to be one of the sounds of summer across the UK and it’s vital that it is not lost altogether from here. Corncrakes are a huge conservation priority in Scotland for RSPB Scotland, and for the Scottish Government under their Biodiversity Route Map.

“This year’s results highlight the essential support agricultural communities on Scottish islands provide to this rare and secretive bird by managing their land in a corncrake friendly way – they are the stronghold for this species and the support they receive must continue over the long-term if we’re to have a real chance at ensuring corncrakes continue to breed in Scotland every summer."

RSPB Scotland is currently developing a new project 'Saving Corncrakes through Advocacy, Land management and Education' (SCALE), which was awarded over £30,000 by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in August 2018, ahead of applying for a full grant later this year.