Are your garden birds here for a season’s greeting?

By Kate Slater

Thursday 19 December 2019

Freezing conditions force hungry winter migrant birds, fieldfares and redwings, into gardens.

Across the country large numbers of winter thrushes, fieldfares and redwings are turning up on lawns as the temperature plummets. These birds are often mistaken for the song thrush, which can be found in gardens all year round, as they look very similar. Sadly the more familiar song thrush, together with winter visitors fieldfares and redwings are all on the conservation status red list and are globally under threat as numbers have declined dramatically.

Redwings are small thrushes with brown backs, streaked breasts and patches of red under their wings. Their larger cousins, fieldfares, have blue grey hoods, grey brown backs, streaked breasts and a pale grey rump. These birds usually spend the winter roaming the countryside in search of berries and other fruit. Redwings and fieldfares will remain in the UK until around the end of March when they return to Iceland and Scandinavia to nest.

The popular song thrush, is a songbird that can be spotted in our gardens throughout the year and has a brown back and spotted breast. It has a beautiful and loud song and likes to eat snails which it breaks into by smashing them against a stone with a flick of the head. When the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch began in 1979, the song thrush was the tenth most seen bird in gardens across the country. But from the latest citizen survey results, numbers reveal they have declined by 77% over the last 40 years.

RSPB Wildlife Advisor Charlotte Ambrose says: “At this point in winter much of the natural food supply will have been used up. So with the weather now turning dramatically for much of the UK, these hungry birds have moved into gardens for food, water and shelter.

“You can help these beautiful visitors get through this cold snap by putting out fruit like apples and pears and planting winter berry plants such as holly. Remember they’ll need water too, so keep your bird bath topped up and ice free.”

Up to half a million people are expected to watch and count their garden birds for this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch over the last weekend in January 2020. To find out more, visit   

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