Fieldfares and redwings: how to tell the difference.

Martha Boalch, 25/04/2018

Fieldfares and redwings are both members of the thrush family and look very alike. Can you tell them apart? They both overwinter in Britain and Ireland, and the vast majority will soon be departing our shores for cooler summer breeding grounds such as Iceland and Scandinavia.

Fieldfare on the left (Chris Gomersall Alamy)

Redwing on the right (North East Wildlife)

Key features of redwings and fieldfares

Both birds bear some resemblance to the song thrush, a close relative. All three birds belong to the genus Turdus. They all have a brown back and wings, and a pale belly and pale chest that’s speckled with dark brown spots and streaks.

  • Wings: redwings have rusty-red flanks and underwings. The flanks of the fieldfare are pale and spotted in the same way as the chest, their underwing is white if you see it during flight.
  • Throat and chest: fieldfares have orange coloration around the throat and chest, which the redwing lacks.
  • Head, body and tail: the head, back and tops of the wings of the redwing are brown but it has a creamy white strip just above its eye and one across its cheek. The fieldfare has a grey head and tail, with brown across the wings and back.
  • Size: fieldfares are slightly taller and plumper with longer tails than redwings, they stand taller and appear more confident.

Where to see them

You’ll often find both species around hedgerows and orchards, parks and arable fields. During the snowy spell this spring, many of our recorders reported seeing them in their gardens as they sought out shelter and food. Both birds are regularly seen in flocks alongside one another and with other thrushes too.

Tell us when you see them

We need your help to tell us when you last see these birds. Nature’s Calendar is a long term phenology project tracking the effects of weather and climate change on wildlife across the UK.

We’d love to know the last date you see fieldfares or redwings this spring before they migrate for the summer. To record this accurately – keep an eye out for them every day and note down the dates you see them. Once they have departed you can refer to your last recorded date and submit the record on our website.

If we know when these birds leave our shores we can track if this date is changing, analyse whether it may be linked to climate changes and assess the impacts for these birds. We would expect to see the last fieldfares and redwings anywhere between January and April, there is a great deal of variation with location and weather conditions.

If your local redwings and fieldfares have already departed, you will have to wait until September or October to record their return.

Here are some photos sent in by our Nature's Calendar recorders when they submitted a record:

Fieldfare (Stuart Summers)

Fieldfare (Bo Chetwyn)

Redwing (Dennis John)

Redwing (Steve Brewer)

Peacock butterfly

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Have you seen your first butterfly or swallow of the spring? Is it a good year for wild autumn fruits? Take part in Nature's Calendar and help scientists to monitor the effects of climate change on wildlife.

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