Redwing (Turdus iliacus)

Also known as: red-winged thrush
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyTurdidae
GenusTurdus (1)
SizeLength: 20 - 24 cm (2)
Weight46 - 80 g (2)

The redwing is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The redwing (Turdus iliacus) is a relatively small thrush species, readily identified by the reddish-brown flanks and underwings for which it is named (2) (3) (4). The upperparts of the body are greyish-brown, with a long, conspicuous, creamy-white stripe above the eye, while the underparts are buffy-white, with blackish streaks radiating from the throat (2) (3). The beak is dark, with a yellowish base, and the legs are pinkish-brown (2).

The male and female redwing are similar in appearance, while the juvenile resembles the adult, but is streaked with buff above and is more heavily spotted below, with less reddish colouration (2). The redwing is divided into two subspecies, Turdus iliacus iliacus and Turdus iliacus coburni, the latter being browner above and having darker spotting below (2).

The song of the redwing, usually given by the male from a high, prominent perch, consists of rather simple, repeated phrases of fluty notes, ending in a softer, twittering chatter. This song often varies between different locations, and during winter and on migration the redwing may also give a low, twittering chorus. The calls of this species include a distinctive, high ‘see-ip’, ‘seeze’ or ‘dssssi’, which is often heard at night when the birds are migrating. Redwings also use a harsh ‘chittick’ when feeding or roosting, as well as various other rattling and chuckling calls (2) (3).

The breeding range of the redwing extends from Iceland and the Faroe Islands, across northern and eastern Europe, and across Siberia to the Altai region and lower Kolyma River, Russia. A migratory species, it spends the winter in western and southern Europe, North Africa, around the Black and Caspian Seas, and into southwest Asia (2).

The subspecies T. i. iliacus breeds across Europe and Siberia and winters in Europe, Africa and Asia, while T. i. coburni breeds in Iceland and the Faroe Islands and winters in western Europe (2). A few redwings remain on the Icelandic coast, Norwegian coast, in Scotland and in the southern Baltic region year-round (2). This species is also occasionally recorded outside of its normal range, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Japan (2) (5).

The redwing breeds in a range of habitats, including open forest margins, forest clearings, shoreline thickets, tundra willow (Salix) and birch (Betula) scrub, parks, gardens, and rocky areas (2).

During the winter, it can be found in open woodland, fields, hedgerows, orchards, gardens and scrub thickets, particularly where berry-bearing bushes and grassy areas occur in close proximity (2) (3) (4).

The diet of the redwing includes of a variety of invertebrate prey, including beetles, flies, caterpillars, bugs, dragonflies, grasshoppers and crickets, spiders, millipedes, small crabs, molluscs and earthworms. In autumn and winter, it also eats a range of seeds, berries and other fruits, including ivy, holly, juniper, apple, buckthorn, currants (Ribes), bramble, elder and rowan (2).

The redwing breeds between April and July (2) (6) (7), building the nest in a variety of locations, including in trees, shrubs, on the ground in thick vegetation, on tree stumps, in tree hollows, or on buildings (2) (3) (7). Although it usually nests in solitary pairs, the redwing may sometimes form loose colonies, sometimes close to colonies of fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) (2) (3).

The nest of this species consists of a bulky cup of grass, moss and twigs, bound together with mud and vegetation and lined with grass and leaves. The female redwing usually lays between 4 and 6 eggs, which hatch after an incubation period of 10 to 14 days. The young redwings leave the nest at around 12 to 15 days old, but are dependent on the adults for a further 2 weeks. The male redwing will sometimes continue to feed the young while the female begins laying a second clutch of eggs (2).

A fairly common species with a widespread range and large population, the redwing is not currently considered globally threatened (5). Its numbers may vary locally due to the impacts of particularly harsh or mild winters (2), but it is not known to face any major threats at present.

The redwing is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention), which aims to conserve migratory species throughout their range (8). It is also listed on Annex II of the EC Birds Directive, which provides a framework for the conservation and management of wild bird species in Europe (9). There are not known to be any other specific conservation measures currently targeted at this small thrush.

Find out more about the redwing and its conservation:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. (2005) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 10: Cuckoo-Shrikes to Thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Peterson, R.T., Mountfort, G. and Hollom, P.A.D. (1993) Collins Field Guide: Birds of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
  4. RSPB - Redwing (March, 2011)
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/r/redwing/index.aspx
  5. BirdLife International (March, 2011)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=6406
  6. Fonstad, T., Espmark, Y., Lampe, H. and Bjerke, T. (1984) Breeding biology of the redwing Turdus iliacus in central Norway. Fauna Norvegica - Series C, 7(2): 75-82.
  7. Khokhlova, T.Y. and Yakovleva, M.V. (2009) Ecological plasticity of nest-building behavior of the redwing (Turdus iliacus L.) in Karelia according to individual marking data. Russian Journal of Ecology, 40(2): 121-127.
  8. Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (March, 2011)
    http://www.cms.int/
  9. EC Birds Directive (March, 2011)
    http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-1373