Redwing

(Turdus iliacus)

Alert Status: Red
Identifying Features: UK's smallest true thrush. Has a creamy strip above the eye and orange-red flank patches.
Average Length: 21 cm
Average Lifespan: 2 years
Average Wingspan: 33 - 35 cm
Beak type: Insects


Feeding:
Natural: Insects, worms, snails and slugs, fruits and berries.
How to feed: Plants bearing berries, such as Hawthorn, may attract Redwings in to the garden.
What to feed:  Soft fruit may attract them, especially fallen apples.

Nesting: They nest in trees, bushes, tree stumps, and banks. The cup nest is made of twigs, grass, moss and lichen, and lined with mud and grass.

 

Where to see: Redwings like hedges and orchards as well as open fields. They will also come to parks and gardens. Often seen with flocks of fieldfares.

Redwing_Turdus_iliacus wiki.jpg
Redwing call by Paul Driver, Xeno-canto.
00:00 / 00:22

Fascinating Facts

The redwing is the UK’s smallest thrush, weighing in at just 50-75g. Although it has some similarity to the song thrush,  redwing’s are identifiable by their striking red underwings. This soft and plump looking bird also has a very smart face pattern of dark brown cheeks and a creamy-white eyebrow stripe. Redwings have grey-brown upperparts and pale buff underparts with black streaks on the breast and throat. Both males and females are similar in appearance. Juveniles tend to have buff streaks on the upperparts, with less colour under the wings.

Redwing.jpg

Being a migratory bird, redwings will usually arrive in the UK in October. Leaving their home grounds of Iceland and Scandinavia, after dusk and in clear skies. You may be lucky enough to hear their soft seep seep call, as they pass overhead.

These social birds can often be seen in flocks with fieldfares, foraging in hedgerows and orchards on a feast of seasonal fruits and berries when they are available. Moving onto open areas to search for earthworms, redwings will rarely visit gardens, although you may spot one at your feeder during periods of particularly harsh weather! Having a hawthorn or rowan bush is a great way of increasing your chances of a visit!

This winter visitor will then leave the UK in March and head back home for breeding between April and July. They build cup shaped nests close to the ground, using grass, moss, twigs and lichen using dense vegetation as cover. Redwings lay around four to six eggs which are pale blue and have reddish-brown markings. The female will incubate the eggs for ten to fourteen days. The chicks will fledge around 12-15 days after hatching but will still depend on their parents for another two weeks.

640px-Redwing_nest.jpg

Only a very few redwings, if any, will breed in the UK and these are most likely to be found in the north of Scotland. Icelandic redwings generally move to Scotland and Ireland whilst the Scandinavian birds favour England and Wales.

Ringing has shown that birds that spend the winter in southern England one year, may well fly to Spain or even Turkey in subsequent years!

Did you know? Redwings were the first birds that were proved to be able to find fruit using ultraviolet vision!

Migrating redwings maintain contact with each other with their high-pitched flight calls, a typical sound of Autumn nights!

Keep a close ear out for the typical thrush-like and varied song of a male redwing marking its territory from the treetops.