Crex crex

The Corncrake is sadly decreasing throughout western Europe due to a number of factors. It is now much less widespread than formerly but still breeds in parts of the west of Ireland. It is a medium-sized, brownish bird with rust-col oured wing patches and barred flanks.

Corncrakes are rarely seen and identification using the call is reliable. This is a raucous shout - 'aic-aic' - uttered from the cover of a rough meadow or similar location.

Water Rail
Rallus aquaticus
Rallóg uisce

The Water Rail is another secretive bird, much more often heard than seen. The calls are strange and varied, the most familiar being a piglet-like squealing. It is slightly smaller and slimmer than the Corncrake and more attractively marked. The upper parts are red-brown, streaked darker; the face and underparts are slate-grey and there is black and white barring on the flanks. In flight the reddish-pink legs often dangle. The bill is also reddish and is long and slightly downcurved. Although resident in Ireland, Water Rails also turn up at coastal islands on migration.

Gallinula chloropus
Cearc uisce

The Moorhen, known also as the 'Waterhen', is a common and widespread resident, inhabiting wetland locations throughout Ireland. It is a medium-sized, sooty bird with long greenish legs and bright red, yellow-tipped bill. There is white marking along the edges of the flanks and a clear white patch beneath the tail. This is jerked up and down and the head is nodded as it walks or swims. The calls are a series of shrill squawks, mostly uttered from cover.

Fulica atra
Cearc cheannann

The Coot favours permanent wetlands like larger ponds and lakes. It is larger than the Moorhen, with a bulkier body, and, like the Moorhen, nods its head whilst swimming. Overall blackish in colour, it has a distinctive white bill and shield on the forehead.

Coots dive from the water surface for underwater food. On being disturbed they scuttle along the surface of the water in a half-hearted attempt at flight. The Coot calls its own name - a resonant 'coot' - revealing its presence even from the midst of reeds.