• Rachael Bentley

Winter thrushes

Fieldfares & Redwings have arrived on my patch.

Fieldfare

This month the hedgerows are twittering and fidgeting with life. The winter thrushes have arrived and the hawthorn’s belly is filled with fieldfares and redwings. They're both flighty, nervous birds, which dive for cover at the first sign of anyone approaching. Then, in an instant, they fly en masse from the top of the hedge, like a chimney billowing smoke. Their undulating flight carrying them on to the next berry feast.


What's the difference between a fielfare and a redwing?

The fieldfare

The fieldfare has a white bib decorated in an abstract of speckle, which is looser than our native thrushes'. He is similar to our mistle thrush but at second glance you'll notice he has a wintery, blue-grey cap. His colouring gives him the appearance of being lightly chilled by the Scandinavian air which brought him here.


The redwing

In contrast, the redwing carries a bushel of fire beneath his wings.

The redwing lives up to his name, having a touch of rouge peeking out from under his wing feathers. When flying, his blush flanks flash past in a blur, as he dashes to catch up with the flock. He may be smaller than our native thrushes but he has style, wearing a striking, bold cream stripe for an eyebrow.


Redwing

Where to find winter thrushes

Farmland is the best place to spot a fieldfare or redwing; where both thrushes can be seen stabbing the earth for worms, which is partly why they’re here. Their homelands’ frozen earth would make for scant pickings. They also gorge on berries; hawthorn being a favourite. Like a swarm, they’ll strip a hedge quickly as they fly in large, noisy flocks; chuckling and whistling as they feed.


During severe winters, when food in neighbouring farmland has been raided, or is hidden beneath a thick fall of snow, fieldfares and redwings can be tempted into our gardens. To encourage them, plant holly, hawthorn or apple trees. Thrushes will feed on the ground too, so chopped apple thrown onto the lawn will be appreciated.

Enjoy them while you can, for as soon as the weather warms up a little, they’ll move back to the farmer’s hedgerows.