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the web of life in southern Africa

Crex crex (Corn crake, Corncrake) 

Kwartelkoning [Afrikaans]; Katukutuku (generic term for crake) [Kwangali]; Kwartelkoning [Dutch]; R‚le des genÍts [French]; WachtelkŲnig [German]; Codorniz„o-euroasiŠtico [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Gruiformes > Family: Rallidae

Crex crex (Corn crake, Corncrake) Crex crex (Corn crake, Corncrake)

Corn crake male, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Corn crake female. [photo Johann du Preez ©]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds from western Europe to western Siberia and China, heading south in the non-breeding season to non-forested regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Within southern Africa it is locally common in Zimbabwe, central Mozambique, north-eastern South Africa as well as KwaZulu-Natal, generally preferring moist grassland, savanna and dry grassland adjacent to streams or marshes.

Distribution of Corn crake in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Palearctic migrant, flying at night and arriving in southern Africa in November and December, then leaving in the period from March-April.


Mainly eats insects and plant matter, doing most of its foraging beneath vegetation, plucking prey from the soil and from grass tufts. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


Globally Vulnerable, as it is hunted by humans when passing over the Mediterranean and north Africa.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.