Date: 11/11/17 4:12 am
From: Fred Vir <avtrader...>
Subject: [JERSEYBI] Corn Crake questions
Several questions/comments were received about the crake.

I was also thinking about two of the questions.

"When did the bird die?"

It seemed to have died at least several hours before before we found the
bird. Rigor seemed to have already been passed when the bird was found.
The birds plumage and eyes were looking old and matted. And many birders
were there for awhile before sunrise on the subject day and should have
seen the collision.

"As someone who's been watching birds and clearly studying them at length...... do you believe that this bird was indeed a European vagrant, and not an escape from a domestic game farm? " The question went on with good points arguing that this crake was not as timid as the literature and observers say.

I don't think this species has been domesticated. Regardless I have seen scores of wintering crakes/rails of various species in 4 continents and even nocturnal species make diurnal appearances (Corn Crakes are diurnal). Diurnal crake spp in SA and Africa can be seen almost daily, at will, in many areas especially in winter as they dart in and out of cover.

Some Corn Crakes have recently been observed entering houses via open windows to feed and feeding out of farm pet bowls.

This was an underweight individual; certainly hormonal signals that synchronize migratory phenology cause animals to feed aggressively when reserves are physiologically detected as being low. The bird was ~ 20 to 50% underweight. In animals an urgent, innate need for food will often incrementally result in reduced wariness. Remember this bird saw the ocean and may have innately been forced to make a stand to feed at that location or go N----terrestrial predators and cars be damned.

Observers of this crake, including me noted that it was both wary of quick movements by people and larger vehicles. Additionally with prior points the strip of bluestem grass may have had more accessible insects that the shrubs; the bird was demonstrating optimal feeding strategies.

Also this bird showed up right on time for a putative, natural vagrant.

Just when you are about to agree that the bird showed reduced wariness for the above reasons I can slightly switch to your side but disagree with causality (domestication caused the change in behavior rather than rapid microevolution).

Going out of the box-------there may have been a recent, rapid change in the genome of this species that makes it slightly less wary. Its pre-agricultural/mechanized agricultural behavior was to move deeper into fields when danger/noise was detected. Its wariness was a partial cause of its industrial age decline. Circling combines starting at the perimeter of a field would mass the birds in an ever smaller central, circle of grass. This led to great mortality via poised shooters or the combines....except for which birds?----- The birds that flushed into more open areas out of the high grass.

If you are right about it being a bit less wary than old literature .....could we be observing microevolution?


Fred Virrazzi
Sec NJ

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