(2010) Crex crex.
THE CORN-CRAKE or LAND-RAIL,
Rallus crex Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 153 (1758) (Sweden). Crex pratensis. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 163.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. The feathers of the crown, hind-neck, back and scapulars to tail with blackish centres and ashy margins, the two colours linked by chestnut-brown ; upper and under wing-coverts and axillaries chestnut: primaries, secondaries and primary coverts, chin, throat and breast ashy-grey, the chin and throat almost white and a darker brown line through the eye to the neck; flanks and sides of abdomen almost white and unbarred. In summer the supercilium, sides of the head, neck and breast are browner and less grey.
Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel to red-brown; bill pale horny-brown, a little darker on the terminal portion of the culmen; legs and feet pale brown or fleshy-brown.
Measurements. Wing, 135 to 150 mm., 130 to 145 mm.; tail 40 to 50 mm.; tarsus 34 to 43 mm.; bill, 20 to 23 mm., $ 19 to 23 mm. (Witherby).
Young birds have the wing-coverts barred with white.
Nestlings. Black, the tips of the down on the upper parts dark buff.
Distribution. Practically the whole of Europe and West and Central Asia. In Winter it migrates to North Africa and a specimen was obtained by Scully at Gilgit.
Nidification. The Corn-Crake never breeds within our Indian area but is still comparatively common in many parts of Great Britain. The eggs number anything from six to fourteen, though clutches of eighteen have been recorded. The ground-colour varies from a yellowish- or greenish-stone colour to light reddish, whilst the spots consist of primary blotches of rather dark reddish-brown with others underlying them of neutral tint and grey.
Witherby gives the average of one hundred eggs as 37.26 x 26.75 mm.: maxima 41.6 x 25.8 and 38.3 x 29.0 mm.; minima 34.0 x 25.0 and 34.3 x 24.1 mm.
The breeding-season is principally during June but eggs are occasionally taken both in May and July. The nests of the Land-Ball are almost invariably placed in fields of grass and are often destroyed when these are cut for hay. Occasionally they will be found in nettle-beds or masses of weeds alongside hedges, but such sites are exceptional.
Habits. Those of the family, though this is essentially a land bird keeping to dry fields of grass and crops. It loud call of " crake, crake" is very ventriloquistic and is constantly uttered throughout the day. It feeds chiefly on insects and very largely on grasshoppers, but also on seeds and shoots of plants.