Porzana porzana (Linnaeus, 1766)
Family: Gruiformes > Rallidae
The Starling-sized Spotted Crake is a rare and elusive bird of fen and marsh that is more often heard than seen.
Spotted Crakes winter in Africa and are summer visitors to the UK, arriving in April. The UK breeding population is thought to number fewer than 30 calling males, but the species is very difficult to census. The biggest challenge is that we have very little knowledge of how calling relates to breeding activity and abundance. The calling period can extend from early April to the end of August, varies in its timing between nights, and males appear to fall silent once paired.
In most years a few Spotted Crakes can be heard across the UK but the breeding population has always been a shifting one.
Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Spotted Crake
Spotted Crake identification is sometimes difficult.
Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Spotted Crake, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
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Status and Trends
Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.
This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.
The Spotted Crake was probably much more common up to the late nineteenth century but suffered a major decline and it has subsequently remained scarce as a UK breeding species (Stroud et al. 2012). It has declined since the 1999 survey when around 80 males were present (Gilbert 2002, Stroud et al. 2012), with the most recent national survey finding a population of 28 singing males (Schmitt et al. 2015). A five-year mean of 20 breeding pairs reported to the RBBP over the period 2015–2019 (Eaton et al. 2021) although RBBP figures are usually incomplete for this species (Stroud et al. 2012).
Spotted Crakes are very rare, but regular, breeding migrants. During 2008–11 breeding was confirmed in southwest England and Yorkshire and probable breeding was reported from Somerset, East Anglia, Yorkshire, the Inner and Outer Hebrides and the Northern Isles.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season||42|
|% occupied in breeding season||1.4|
|No. occupied in winter||5|
|% occupied in winter||0.2|
European Distribution Map
The Spotted Crake population has declined since the early 2000s, in terms of both breeding birds and passage migrants .
Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK
|% change in range in breeding season (1968–72 to 2008–11)||+7.7%|
|% change in range in winter (1981–84 to 2007–11)||--73.3%|
Spotted Crakes are scarce summer visitors and autumn migrants.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
Lifecycle and body size information about Spotted Crake, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
|Field Codes||2-letter: AK | 5-letter code: SPOCR | Euring: 4080|
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Interpretation and scientific publications about Spotted Crake from BTO scientists.
Causes of change
Causes of change are difficult to assess and long-term trends are unclear due to the difficulty in monitoring this cryptic breeding species. Spotted Crakes prefer wetter conditions away from scrub and lack of management and vegetation succession is a possible cause of some local declines (Stroud et al. 2012).
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