Pioneer Foods helps bring British corncrakes back into the wild

We are very excited to be working with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Zoological Society of London (ZSL) conservation programme to help establish a self-sustaining population of corncrakes in the Nene Washes, an area local to our UK headquarters in Peterborough. Once a common summer visitor to the fields and meadows of rural Britain, the corncrake population has suffered a rapid decline during the last century because of the modernisation of farming methods, particularly machine mowing of hay which led to earlier cutting and more destruction of nests and chicks.

In particular, we are helping to provide the RSPB volunteers with crushed wheat biscuits and oatmeal, these ingredients will be used to feed worms, the corncrake’s choice of food.

We are hoping that this project will help to establish a population of 50 calling males at the Nene Washes site, and if successful, future reintroductions may be used to facilitate the recolonisation of the corncrake in other areas of the UK.

Olivia Masi, RSPB Research Assistant, has been working on the project for the past two years, feeding the worms and counting the birds on the reserve and she kindly invited the Pioneer Foods team to visit the site to experience the late night call of the corncrakes.

A group of six paid a late night visit to the site on Thursday 12 June to hear the distinct rasping call of the corncrakes. We discovered that this call is made by the males to entice the females into mating, so fingers crossed it worked!

“It was incredible how many sounds you hear when you take the time to stop and listen, we could easily hear the calls from the corncrakes, cranes and the low rumble of the snipes. The trip was really informative and we had an insight in to the migration of the birds. Olivia explained how the breeding of German and Scottish corncrakes has shown that unlike most cross breeding of animals this has not made a stronger bird; in fact Olivia is seeing the return of more Scottish birds, showing these to be stronger.” Karin Stephens, Production Planner at Pioneer Foods.

“The reserve was slightly eerie with the vast flat wetlands and a full moon in the sky. The corncrake’s calling all around us made it feel like an orchestral experience of nature.

“It was a great experience, getting to see the effects of Pioneer Foods’s contributions first-hand, and we are hoping to get a small team of us together to go back down to the site at the end of the mating season to usher the birds through the reserve to the pens where RSPB volunteers ring all the new born birds, and ensure they are getting enough food from their mothers.” Jessica Feather, Group Technical Manager at Pioneer Foods.

To find out more about our wonderful British corncrakes, or to learn more about the work RSPB and ZSL are doing to help save these birds visit the RSPB website.