The redwing

David Chapman

David Chapman introduces the redwing, a bird often seen in gardens looking for berries over winter.

The redwing is about the size of a song thrush but is easily identified by its appearance and behaviour. It has a dark back contrasting with a pale belly which is heavily spotted, altogether a colder, more heavily marked, bird than the familiar, warm-toned song thrush.

Around its face the redwing has two white lines; in particular it has a distinct supercilium (a line over the eye) which is surprisingly obvious even from a distance. The second feature which separates the redwing from the other thrushes, and is responsible for its name, is its red under-wing plumage. In ornithological parlance the feathers covering the arm pit or under-wing are known as the axillaries. Fortunately this red plumage is not just visible when the bird is in flight but a sliver of it can also be seen along the bird’s flanks when at rest.

Unlike song thrushes, which are often solitary birds, the redwing is always seen in flocks either in hedgerows or on fields. Generally, while there are still plenty of berries in the hedgerows, they will be found there but as the berries become depleted so redwings spend more of their time feeding on invertebrates found on short grassland.

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