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 Redshank - Fact File
Tringa totanus
Resident. In addition to breeding birds, many more winter here and pass through on migration (many arriving from Iceland.)
Breeds on wetlands, moorland, water-side meadows, both coastal and inland. In winter, most found on tidal estuaries and mudflats.

A medium sized grey-brown wader. Combination of orange-red legs and base of bill, and, in flight, white rump and V shaped white wing patch is distinstive. Musical "tuuu" and "tu-hu-hu" calls.

26 cm (10")


The serene sight of cattle grazing on the saltmarshes around the Wash carries a hidden benefit for one of Britain's most important wading birds. Research by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has shown that grazing on the older and higher marshes creates a better nesting environment for the redshank.

An estimated 1925 pairs of the wader live around the Wash area, about six per cent of the British population. Studies by the RSPB, which surveyed an area of 1237 hectares, showed breeding redshanks were found in their highest densities on well-grazed areas of upper saltmarsh dominated by sea-couch grass.

Grazing changes the structure of saltmarsh vegetation by reducing its height and increasing diversity. The most likely explanation for the presence of more redshanks is that this creates more nesting sites.

"The RSPB and other conservation bodies are increasing the amount of cattle grazing on some of the older and higher saltmarshes of the Wash," said Chris Durdin, from the RSPB, who managed the survey project. "It has encouraged us to do more of what we were doing anyway. It has provided the science for what I think we have known anyway."

"The redshank is quite an important symbolic bird in terms of the quality of habitat, and that applies to both saltmarshes and grazing marshes."

"If you can get your management right for redshanks it's likely it's going to be good for a range of other species as well."

RedshankThe Wash estuary management plan has encouraged re-establishment of grazing on several of the area's saltmarshes. A density of one cow per hectare is recommended, with cattle put on the marsh towards the end of the nesting season, in late May or early June, if possible, to minimise trampling of the eggs.

Eastern Daily Press, August 18 1997

By Ted Ellis

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Illustrations by Dave Nurney from - The Pocket Guide to the Birds Of Britain and North-West Europe By Chris Kightley and Steve Madge
© Pica Press and reproduced with kind permission.