Redwing on parched grass

Redwing migration

Redwings are largely a winter visitor to the UK with the first arrivals reaching us in October.

Redwings through the seasons

Redwings migrate by night in loose flocks. Listen out for their soft seep seep call, as they pass overhead. In autumn, redwings gather along the Scandinavian coast at dusk before launching off on their single 800 km (500 mile) flight across the North Sea to the UK. In rough weather, many may crash into the waves and drown.

Some redwings come from Iceland to winter in Scotland and Ireland. Others come from Russia and Scandinavia to winter in southern England and further south in Europe.

The first redwings reach the UK in October. They spend the autumn in hedges and orchards, where they feed on fruit and berries. As winter draws on, and the fruit is used up, they move onto open areas in search of earthworms. 

You might spot them in parks and playing fields – often in loose, mixed flocks with other birds, such as starlings and fieldfares. In some years, when there is more food than usual at their breeding grounds, the redwing population increases suddenly and then many more visit the UK. 

In spring, redwings leave the UK for their northern breeding territories, where they nest low down in boggy woodland and birch forest. Many redwings that spent the winter in Spain and southern Europe also stop off in eastern England to refuel as they head back north. Each year, a few pairs remain to breed in Scotland.