Redshank Tringa totanus, in breeding plumage, Geltsdale RSPB reserve, Cumbria,

Redshank

The redshank breeds on wet grasslands on upland and lowland farms and on saltmarshes.

Redshanks in brief

There has been a significant decline in redshank numbers in many areas of the UK. On farmland, the main reasons for this reduction have been the drainage, re-seeding and fertilising of grassland.

Key points

  • Extensively graze wet grasslands to provide a mosaic of tall and short vegetation.
  • Provide standing water into May and June as insect-rich feeding areas for chicks.
Redshank at Brownsea Island Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve, Dorset

What this species needs

Wet ground for feeding 

  • Redshanks feed on insects at the edges of pools and ditches. They are found on wet grassland which holds shallow surface water or damp soil until June. 

Grassland with a varied sward height 

  • Redshanks are most likely to be found in fields with a mosaic of short damp grassland for feeding and grass or rush tussocks in which to nest.    
Redshank, Tringa totanus Brownsea Island Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve. Dorset, England. March

How to help

Priority action

  • Provide grassland with a varied sward height and surface water or very damp soil until June. 
  • Extensive grazing suitable for breeding waders and the re-wetting of areas of rough pasture, can both be funded by agri-environment schemes.  

On pasture

  • Retain boggy ground as this provides suitable feeding areas. 
  • Create wet areas by blocking drains and small ditches in suitable areas. Shallow open water is particularly important for feeding. 
  • Use appropriate levels of grazing to maintain short grassland for feeding, with tussocky sedges, rushes or grasses for nesting. Cattle are better able to cope with the wet ground conditions and are more likely to create a variable sward than sheep. 
  • Low stock rates in fields used by breeding redshanks are beneficial in April and May to minimise nest trampling. Ideally, keep stock levels below one hundred livestock units per square kilometre throughout this period. 
  • Try not to allow pastures to become overgrown with rushes. Redshanks benefit from small scattered stands of rush, but levels above 30 per cent cover are detrimental to both bird numbers and productive grazing. You can control rushes by topping in August, followed by either cattle grazing or a second cut six to eight weeks later.  

On hay and silage fields

  • Avoid rolling or harrowing fields used by breeding waders after 1 April as this will destroy nests and kill chicks. 
  • Delay silage cutting in fields with breeding waders until at least mid-June or leave some areas of grass uncut alongside ditches and wet areas of fields to provide a haven for unfledged chicks.
 Redshank Tringa totanus, in breeding plumage, Geltsdale RSPB reserve, Cumbria