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Amazing Migrations – The Redwing

  • Sat 16th Jan, 2021

In January 2020 I wrote a blog about Redwings, I started with;

There is something really magical about finding a beautiful songbird eating the berries in your holly tree knowing this bird has recently flown over a thousand miles to visit your garden”. I roughly estimated the distance between the Scandinavian forests and York. However, I was underestimating the distance these birds can travel!  

Redwing © Richard BainesRedwing © Richard Baines 

A year later I have learnt through the powers of social media of a Redwing which flew far more than 1,000 miles. It was ringed by the West Midlands Ringing Group on the 20th October 2016 at Cannock Chase. The third week of October is a great time for seeing Redwings arriving on the east coast of England. We see many thousands in Yorkshire and they can be seen in huge flocks in the North York Moors National Park at this time.

Redwing © Dan LombardRedwing © Dan Lombard

This bird must have quickly moved inland, then took a break in Staffordshire where it flew into a bird ringers net. Fast forward to the 15th July 2019 when the same bird was found dead in a town called Asha in Chelyabinsk, Russia. The region became famous for the large meteorite which fell in the same area in 2013. The finder must have noticed the ring and maybe reported the ring number to Euring, the European web site for birding ringing co-ordination.

Redwing map courtesy of the West Midlands Ringing GroupRedwing map courtesy of the West Midlands Ringing Group  

The distance between Cannock Chase and Asha is 3,896 km! It’s highly likely this Redwing had been born in the forests of the Asha area and may have been migrating back and forth to the UK since the first autumn after its birth. Many birds even small songbirds have amazing site fidelity and use the same traditional areas each year in summer and winter. If we take this theory as correct this amazing bird flew six journeys back and forth from Russia to the UK, a total of 23,376 km in its lifetime. The journeys these birds travel, takes them across many dangerous landscapes. On these journeys their sole aim is to survive, they have no concern with borders or human politics. The next time I see a Redwing in our garden I will think about its home in central Russia and how closely connected to the natural world our countries are.       

The hard work of volunteer bird ringers all over world opens our eyes to these amazing stories of migration. In the UK bird ringers are licensed by the British Trust for Ornithology after several years of training to ensure no harm is done to the birds. To find out more about the work of the West Midlands Ringing Group Click Here.  

Richard Baines

Yorkshire Coast Nature