The corncrake (Crex crex) in Friuli Venezia Giulia (North eastern Italy)

Rassati G. & Tout C. P.

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Abstract:

The following article is a summary of the current levels of knowledge available for the Corncrake in the region Friuli-Venezia Giulia, especially with regard to studies carried out from the middle of the 1980’s onwards.
This rail species has been the subject of continuous study since the end of the 1980’s in certain sample areas of Upper Friuli both through the collection of general data and, from 1993 onwards, breeding censuses carried out at least twice in each nesting season. During the 1995 nesting season a breeding survey was carried out covering the entire territory of the Region.
The studies have enabled us to establish that in Friuli-Venezia Giulia the species is a regular migrant and nesting species that is occasionaly present even in the autumn and winter when one occasionally encounters individuals that for various reasons (injuries, handicaps or disease) are unable to migrate.
The regional population censussed in 1995 yielded 203 calling males largely located in the central-north part of the region at an altitude between 100m a.s.l. and 1600m a.s.l. (68,8% of the calling males were found between 500m a.s.l.1999 m a.s.l.). In Upper Friuli, for the period 1993-1999, the majority of the calling (5 1 .3%) were located between 200m a.s.l.
The bird is almost completely absent below 200m a.s.l. as a result of the high levels of human impact on the environment and the subsequent absence of suitable habitats for the species. The increasing rarity of the species above 11 00m a.s.l. is due to the lack of broad valley bottoms and human settlements with their regularly cut hay meadows. The upper altitudinal limit for the species is determined by the disappearance of grassland habitats which are replaced by krummholz scrub, screes and bare rock.
The environment favoured by the species in Friuli-Venezia Giulia seems to consist of relatively humid hay meadows with good vegetational cover which are regularly cut in areas with at most a slight slope.
The authors hope that concrete protection measures for the species will be taken with regular monitoring over the years with a view to gathering information on the habitats used by the birds so that appropriate conservation projects can be undertaken.