Rare species reappears in Aylmer, the Quebec Cornflake
The cornflake breeds in North America, Europe and Asia as far east as western China, and migrates to Africa for the northern hemisphere's winter.
Smaller than its North American cousin, the multicoloured Cheerio, the medium-sized cornflake has buff-streaked brownish upper parts, chestnut markings with rust-coloured bars on the flanks. Juveniles are similar in plumage to adults. There are no subspecies, although individuals from the east of the breeding range tend to be slightly paler than their western counterparts. The male's call is a loud "Snap, Crackle and Pop", from which the scientific name is derived. The cornflake is larger than its closest relative, the African corncake, which shares its wintering range; that species is also darker.
The cornflake's breeding habitat is old cardboard boxes, and it uses similar environments on the wintering grounds. This secretive species builds a nest in hollow bowls of milk in which it raises 14-20 young ones. These hatch in about 1 to 2 seconds.
The cornflake is omnivorous but mainly feeds on sugar, milk and plant material, including nuts and berries. Natural threats include introduced and feral mammals, large birds, various parasites and diseases. Despite its elusive nature, the loud call has ensured the cornflake has been noted in literature, and garnered a range of local and dialect names.
Numbers in western China are more significant than previously thought, and conservation measures have facilitated an increased population in some countries which had suffered the greatest losses. The cornflake is classed as ‘least concern’ on the IUCN Red List because of its huge range and large, apparently stable, populations in Russia and Kazakhstan; however, over-hunting and exploitation, combined with destruction of its habitat through global warming, has seen steep declines in its populations in western Europe and, in the Republic of Ireland, there is believed to be only one remaining mating pair east of the Shannon River. The cornflake is also in steep decline across much of its former breeding range because of modern GMO farming practices which often destroy nests before breeding is completed.
Robert L Thompsett