Little Crake (Porzana parva)

Little Crake

[order] GRUIFORMES | [family] Rallidae | [latin] Porzana parva | [UK] Little Crake | [FR] Marouette poussin | [DE] Kleines Sumpfhuhn | [ES] Polluela Bastarda | [NL] Klein Waterhoen


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Marked sexual dimorphism in plumage. Male has blue-grey face and underparts, with narrow white bars on rear flanks and black and white barring on undertail-coverts.
Female has blue-grey replaced by buff except for pale ash grey lupercilium, lores and cheeks, and whitish chin and throat.
Slim shape, produced by relatively long neck, wings, tail and legs, is useful distinction from sympatric Porzana species.

Listen to the sound of Little Crake

[audio: Crake.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 34 cm wingspan max.: 40 cm
size min.: 17 cm size max.: 19 cm
incubation min.: 15 days incubation max.: 17 days
fledging min.: 45 days fledging max.: 17 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 7  
      eggs max.: 9  


Eurasia : West, Central


In breeding season occurs typically in temperate and steppe zones, usually in lowlands but occasionally to 2000 m. Frequents dense emergent vegetation of freshwater wetlands, including margins of lakes and rivers, and flooded woodland


Breeds from May to August in Central Europe. Monogamous and territorial, pair-bond maintained only during breeding season.
Nest a shallow of plant stems and leaves, placed in thick vegetation near or over water, often raised on tussock or platform of dead material. 7-9 eggs are laid, incubation 21-23 days tended by both sexes.

Feeding habits

Mostly insects, especially water beetles and also Hemiptera, Neuroptera, and adult and larval Diptera, and also seeds and aquatic plants, worms, gastropods, spiders and water mites.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Porzana parva is a widespread but patchily distributed summer visitor to Europe, which
constitutes >75% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is
relatively small (<140,000 pairs), but increased substantially between 1970-1990. Although trends were stable across much of Europe during 1990-2000, some national populations declined?including the sizeable Ukrainian one?and the species probably declined slightly overall.
This small rail inhabits permanent swamps – especially deep Phragmites or Typha reed beds – in temperate, boreal, Mediterranean and steppe regions of Europe and western Asia. Its continuous distribution extends from central Europe to Kazakhstan and Sinkiang. In Western Europe its distribution is very fragmented. Its wintering quarters are in eastern sub-Saharan Africa. The population of the European Union (12 Member States) is difficult to estimate, but can be estimated at between 50 and 500 breeding pairs for a total European population amounting to 25000-120000 pairs
Little Crake status Least Concern


Migratory, but winter distribution imperfectly known due to secretive behaviour. In Britain, 31 records 1958-95, occurring both spring and autumn, with peak in early November, and twice in January. Also recorded rarely in winter Netherlands and Hungary, though otherwise withdraws south in autumn, occurring as migrant on all larger Mediterranean islands. Normal winter range for west Palearctic breeders believed to be Mediterranean basin (perhaps a minority), north-east and East Africa (south to equator in Kenya and Uganda), and possibly Arabia, Iraq, and Iran; in practice, however, rather few mid-winter records anywhere. Not recorded sub-Saharan Africa west of Sudan, except in Senegal (September-November), but this apparent absence from much of northern tropics probably delusive in view of passage through Maghreb and Libya.
Migration periods ill-defined. Movement apparent by late August, probably at height September-October, tailing off in November. Spring return mainly late March and through April, though in Mediterranean begins late February and continues at least until mid-May.

Distribution map

Little Crake distribution range map

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