Bird of the Week this week is an autumn/speciality, the Redwing (Turdus iliacus). Every year thousands of thrushes pour into the country from Scandinavia and Russia. Redwings, along with Fieldfare, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Ring Ouzel, and Mistle Thrush fill the fields, and you’ve a decent shout of getting them in your garden too.
Some of these birds, like Blackbirds, we have year round, breeding. Their numbers just increase in winter (as our resident blackbirds tend not to migrate). But the Redwing is mainly a winter specialist, bar dwindling numbers of breeding birds in Northern Scotland. While there may be 10-20 birds around in summer, in winter this can be over half-a-million.
It’s quite a dainty-looking thrush, unlike the bruising Mistle Thrush, the smallest thrush you’ll see in the UK. That said, as you can see in these pictures, it’ll happily churn up frozen earth to find food. It’s a distinctive looking bird, with that orangey-red patch on its side that gives it its name.
Many birders love this time of year, as you can stand outside on a cold, clear night and listen for passing flocks of redwing. Their whistling flight call is distinctive in the night sky.
For all this, there is concern that we are seeing fewer and fewer Redwing and Fieldfare each year. The BTO are tracking numbers, and you can help by recording sightings. This year has, so far, felt like a good year for wintering thrushes. I’ve seen large numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing already (the BTO tracking supports this), so let’s hope any decline is not permanent. The birds remain common across Europe, and breed well, so they are not in any perceived danger at the moment.