A common wading bird, both resident and migrant in Scotland, breeding throughout the country. The redshank is an elegant, medium-sized shore bird with fairly long neck and a straight bill that is coloured red at the base and black at the tip. The bird’s most distinctive feature are their medium length, bright red-orange legs, which project beyond the tail when in flight. A broad white trailing edge to the wings and a white ‘V’ shape on the back are unique amongst waders, and serve as distinctive markings for in-flight adults.
Redshanks are wary and noisy birds which, like oyster catchers, will alert everything else with their loud piping call – ‘teu-tu-tu’ or ‘teu-huhu’. The alarm call is often given in-flight as a persistent ‘kyip-kyip-kyip…’. Redshanks can often be heard long before they are seen. Like most waders they feed on small invertebrates by pecking or probing mud flats or upper tidal zones. On inland wetlands, their diet consists of crane fly larvae and earthworms.
- Length 24-28cm
- Wingspan 48-60cm
- Weight 110g (male), 130g (female)
Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4 (2015 update).
The redshank is threatened by the loss of breeding and wintering habitats. This may occur through agricultural intensification, wetland drainage, flood control, land reclamation, industrial development or sea-level rise flooding salt-marshes, mudflats and inter-tidal habitats. Natural predators include foxes, crows, the American mink and ground predators (such as weasels) when nesting. They are also susceptible to severe cold periods in the winter.
Common and widespread migrant in Scotland, breeding across the country, but with marginally higher densities in the north, Northern Isles and Outer Hebrides with significant numbers overwintering in Scottish Firths (Clyde, Forth, Solway, Moray). During the winter they are largely coastal, occupying rocky, muddy and sandy beaches, saltmarshes, tidal mudflats, saline and freshwater coastal lagoons, tidal estuaries and sewage farms.
Redshanks breed on coastal saltmarshes, inland wet grasslands, including cultivated meadows, grassy marshes, swampy heathlands and wet moors, typically returning to the same nesting area year after year. The nest is characteristically a shallow scrape or hollow on a hummock or at the base of a tuft of grass, often well-hidden. Redshanks typically nest in a solitary manner or in loose colonies and lay 3-4 eggs. Local breeding birds are joined by internationally important numbers of wintering Redshanks from Iceland, the Faeroes and a small number from continental Europe.
When to see
- The redshank is the most common Tringa (sandpiper) in Europe.
- The redshank’s nest is typically made by the male who is more faithful to a specific breeding site than the female.
- The Scottish population of redshanks represents about 40% of the breeding UK population.