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Guess who we just saw… a flock of redwings and fieldfares!

Alice Kirk

Since doing the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch for the first time a few years ago, some of us here at GFK have got really into our birdwatching. Two of us live separately in the same village and like to compare notes. No competition or anything, you understand!

A few weeks ago, both of us were watching the birds in our gardens when, at almost the same time, we both saw something that neither of us had seen before: a flock of redwings and fieldfares! You may have seen on Twitter how excited we were to see them, and couldn’t believe our eyes!

Redwings and fieldfares are both members of the thrush family, and at first glance, these sleek and beautiful birds look quite similar. On closer inspection, redwings have a pronounced patch of red feathers under their wings and a creamy yellow eyebrow, while fieldfares are slightly larger, with more grey feathers on their heads and tails, and a lighter belly.

This is a redwing:

And this is a fieldfare:

Both redwings and fieldfares are social, migratory birds from Scandinavia, and often can be seen flocking together in the UK in winter. They’re often seen in countryside looking for insects, worms and berries to eat.

Redwings are quite numerous in Britain in the winter months, but there are fewer than a million fieldfares here in winter. Sadly, as with many of our beautiful birds, numbers of both redwings and fieldfares are in drastic decline. Both species are on the RSPB’s ‘Red List’ for conservation, meaning that their populations have fallen by more than 50% in the last 25 years. Thankfully, they are both protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

We can’t even explain how dismayed we were to hear that these majestic birds are having such a hard time, and wondered if we can do anything to help. Both species like to eat winter berries, with hawthorn being a favourite for fieldfares. By growing a variety of native winter berries such as holly, whitebeam, elder, honeysuckle and ivy, many other hungry birds – not just redwings and fieldfares – will thank you for it!

Why not see if you can see a redwing in your garden? Winter is the best time for birdwatching and is also a time when food is scarce: they may need a little help getting through the cold weather. Take a look at our bird care collection, in which you can find bird feeders, nesting wool, and even a robin winter care pack (if you, like many others, have a soft spot for the UK’s favourite bird).



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