The Redwing is a smallish, attractive thrush which can be found, in the breeding season, in northern Europe (Scandinavia and Iceland) and in the autumn and winter months throughout the rest of western Europe. Redwings breed in birch forests or bushes, old tree stumps and even hedgerow banks. On the wintering grounds, they behave in much the same way as the Fieldfare (in whose company they are often seen), feeding in berried trees, open fields and woodlands. Just like the Fieldfare, Redwings will take advantage of a garden if the winter weather takes a turn for the worse. The need for keeping water unfrozen is paramount, and ensuring a good supply of food (windfall apples are a particular favourite) will doubtless encourage groups of Redwings into your garden.
The adult’s head shows a dark brow, with a whitish supercilium and moustache, extending towards the cheeks. The ear-coverts are brownish, with very fine white streaks. The mantle, rump and tail are greybrown, while the wing shows darker feather centres on marginally greyer overall colour tones. The flight feathers are darker still. The underparts are
white, with slender streaks extending from bill base to flanks. The flanks usually show a vibrant red patch extending to the underwing.
Redwings superficially resemble the Song Thrush, but are smaller and darker, with a distinctive face and underpart pattern. The bill is dark and stubby with a yellow base. The eye is black and the legs and feet are fleshy-yellow.
In flight, the most obvious feature to be seen is the red on the flank and the underwing. With a close view, the head pattern and spots below should be seen. They often fly in disorderly flocks.
A very gregarious bird, the Redwing feeds in flocks and the birds often bound and hop along the ground in synchrony. If disturbed, they will fly off, with a thin, high-pitched ‘tzipp’ call.
A first-winter Redwing is basically identical to an adult bird, except for white or buffy tips to the greater coverts on the wings. The bare parts are the same as on the adults. When seen from behind, the Redwing will appear cold ashy-brown with the exception of the stripey head pattern and clearly fringed wing markings.