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 Redwing - Fact File
Turdus iliacus
Widespread and common winter visitor. A small number breed in northern Scotland.
Hedgerows and open country. Sometimes visits gardens especially in hard weather.

A gregarious thrush often associated with Fieldfares. Slightly smaller than Song Thrush, and darker with prominent creamy eye-stripe. Reddish flanks and underwing coverts.

21 cm (8.5")


A combination of prominent creamy-white eyestripe and rusty-red flanks and underwings makes the redwing unmistakable. After dark, their far-carrying 'seep' contact notes have been reported by many observers this month in the night sky.

Early one morning recently, a party of these northern thrushes descended to feast on pyracantha berries in our garden. But their stay was brief and they readily caught up with a large flight of redwing still heading westward.

Redwing roost communally, hundreds often gathering at traditional sites. Thick shrubberies, especially evergreen and dense hedgerows, are favoured. A large roost-site will attract them within a 12-mile radius.

For a number of years, a length of tall roadside holly at Rackheath became a favoured locality. Flying in high, the roost was circled repeatedly before each bird, calling incessantly, dropped vertically to alight in the top of a bush.

On one occasion, a passing sparrowhawk caused panic among the newly-arrived redwing which rapidly bandoned the site en masse to perform aerial revolutions not unlike those associated with starling flocks.

At first light, redwing leave the roost discreetly, alone or in small parties, pausing frequently on the way to feeding grounds.

Redwing journey here non-stop from southern Scandinavia often in company with fieldfares and blackbirds. Many end the winter in Spain and Portugal. Others penetrate no further than south-west England and Ireland before returning to the continent the following March. Through the winter the birds remain highly mobile, ebbing and flowing in parallel with weather conditions.

Redwing are among the least robust of thrushes and vulnerable to mass mortality when overcome by cold spells. If no berries remain, having been stripped earlier by blackbirds and mistle thrushes, they perish.

Redwing display a remarkable lack of consistency in their wintering quarters. There are numerous recoveries of ringed birds which have spent one winter in this country, but were as far as Italy, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Georgia and even Iran in subsequent winters. Such recoveries reveal highly nomadic birds.

Redwing have bred in variable numbers in the Scottish highlands since 1932 when the first nest was found by Major Daukes, and it was the very same observer who provided one of the original observation hides on Cley Marsh, in memory of his wife.

.By Michael J. Seago

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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.