7 things you never knew about the redwing

Discover fantastic facts about the UK's smallest thrush.

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Redwing
Illustration by Mike Langman

 

1. Light lunch

The redwing was the first bird to be shown to locate fruit using ultraviolet vision. The waxy coatings of bilberries reflect UV light, making them more attractive to the birds.

2. War chant

The male's breeding song, which consists of simple, repeating fluty phrases, sometimes concludes with a 'terminating twitter,' which is thought to signal a state of increased aggression to rival males.

3. Cold calling

In the UK, we are more likely to hear the redwing's contact call - a distinctive tseep - at night, as they fly overhead in autumn, winter and spring.

4. Northern exposure

Birds that overwinter in the UK are most likely to have bred in Iceland, the Faroes and Scandinavia, where, unusually for a thrush, they often nest on the ground.

5. Wandering stars

Unlike many migratory birds that are faithful to specific wintering grounds, redwings are nomadic, following the good weather and food supplies wherever it takes them - sometimes as far south as Africa.

6. Rare residents

A handful of pairs – usually less than 20 - remain in the UK year-round to breed, mostly in the Scottish Highlands, but occasionally as far south as Kent.

7. Collision course

Much of what is known about the physiology of migrating redwings is the result of a study of 600 birds killed after colliding with Bardsey Lighthouse in Wales on the night of 29 October 1995.

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