The rare corncrake bird has suffered a massive drop in numbers as a result of this year’s poor spring weather, new research has shown.
Populations of corncrake, which are found mainly on the islands off the west coast, have dropped by 17 per cent in the past 12 months to just over 1,000 males.
The decline follows a record year in 2014, when nearly 1,300 males were counted – the highest numbers in nearly half a century.
A similarly cold, late spring affected the elusive birds in 2013, with the numbers falling by 23 per cent from 2012.
Corncrakes suffered dramatic losses during the 19th and 20th centuries, plummeting to an estimated 400 males dotted around the Scottish isles. However, a major conservation effort launched in the 1990s has reversed the trend.
Paul Walton, of RSPB Scotland, said farmers and crofters have played a key role in preserving populations but more can be done.
“The conservation programme has not yet succeeded in spreading the population further than its low point in 1991,” he said.
“It is difficult to fund crofters to deliver land management in areas where corncrakes are currently absent but that’s the only way to start increasing the birds’ range – the vital next step.”