REDWING (Turdis ilacus)


The redwing, named after its red underwing, is our smallest thrush species. Another winter-visiting thrush, they arrive in late September and stay until April with a very small number remaining to breed in the very north of Scotland. They migrate to the UK in search of winter berries to feed on, and if berry crops reduce in Iceland and Fennoscandia then the UK winter population can increase significantly. They are known as the nomads of the skies as they rarely return to the same wintering grounds!

Discover our Promises

Alert Status:


Estimated number of breeding pairs: 24

Listen to Redwing song:


The redwing is the UK’s smallest thrush and can be easily mistaken for a fieldfare, which it often feeds with. Redwings can be identified by its characteristic red underwing and clear white eyebrow stripe (or supercilium).  They have chestnut-brown upperparts and cream/white underparts with brown streaking that runs along the belly, breast, and throat. Male and female redwings look the same.

Average Length: 21 cm

Average Lifespan: 2 years

Average Wingspan: 33-35 cm

BACK to a-z

Redwing diet

They feed mainly on berries, fruits, and worms. If food is scarce or conditions harsh then they will venture into gardens to look for food. Planting winter berries such as Holly or Rowan will help attract these birds to your garden.

Redwing Breeding and nesting information

The breeding season varies with latitude but usually starts in April and ends in July. They build a cup-shaped nest in dense vegetation, close to the ground. 4-6 eggs are laid and incubated for 10-14 days before they hatch. The parents then feed the chicks for a further two weeks until they leave the nest, but they will rely on their parents for another two weeks after leaving the nest. They usually produce two broods before the breeding season ends.

Threats to Redwings

Not a lot is known about the threats that Redwings face, especially in the UK where population estimates are difficult. Populations are known to fluctuate based on harsh winter conditions and berry crops. Increasingly unpredictable weather caused by climate change may negatively impact this population. Loss of low dense vegetation caused by habitat loss and over-grazing may also reduce the already small breeding population in Scotland. Redwing is also illegally trapped in the Mediterranean.

How you can help

Plant winter berries such as Rowan and Holly to provide food for these birds.  

Provide clean water throughout the winter months.

Petition governments to take immediate action against climate change.  

Fascinating Fact

Redwings were one of the first birds that proved the use of ultraviolet vision to detect fruit! Berries reflect UV light, which makes them more appealing to birds which helps with seed dispersal.
Download Fact Sheet
Discover our Promises


BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Turdus iliacus. Downloaded from Accessed: 30/10/2023.  

British Trust for Ornithology (2023) Redwing | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology. Available at: Accessed: 30/10/2023.  

Lehikoinen, A., & Virkkala, R. (2016). North by north-west: climate change and directions of density shifts in birds. Global Change Biology, 22(3), 1121–1129.  

Murgui, E. (2014). When governments support poaching: a review of the illegal trapping of thrushes Turdus spp. in the parany of Comunidad Valenciana, Spain. Bird Conservation International, 24(2), 127–137.

RSPB (2023) Redwing, RSPB. Available at: Accessed: 30/10/2023

Virkkala, R. (2016). Long-term decline of southern boreal forest birds: consequence of habitat alteration or climate change? Biodiversity and Conservation, 25(1), 151–167.  

Woodward,I., Aebischer, N., Burnell, D., Eaton, M., Frost, T., Hall, C., Stroud, D.A.& Noble, D. (2020). Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and theUnited Kingdom. British Birds. 113: 69–104.

mag glass