Check that Undertail!
I have personally been really keen on this subject. Why? I think Icelandic Redwings ssp. coburni are overlooked. I have features I am keen to test. What can be learned about this curious insular population of NW Europe? Identification was covered/ explored in a chapter the Challenge Series: WINTER. Now time to test it.
Peter Alker is based at Orell, near Wigan, Greater Manchester. Here his ringing and bird study is carried out with precision. Visit Two in a Bush to see!
Mid October, Norwick, Unst
Some of my last perambulations involved watching Redwings arriving at Norwick, Unst and managing a few photos. All the birds seen fit the ‘Scandinavian’ or better nominate iliacus profile. One of those is photographed above. Most notable feature to me being the nice white open breast area and lots of gaps of white among dark streaking.
27th October, nr Wigan, Greater Manchester
“Bird of the day and the main reason for this post was a Redwing that I considered to be of the Icelandic race ‘coburni’. When I saw it at the far end of 18m net I knew it was likely to be one, assuming I am correct of course. It was darker than any of the other Redwings, was more heavily marked, had striking undertail coverts and even felt bigger when extracted and was in the hand.”
That’s Peter Alker speaking having rung some 750 Redwings- all seemingly nominate iliacus.
Here’s a rough overview of the features from Challenge Series: WINTER Compare these directly with Peter’s photos. Are the features there? Here’s a small selection of his photos but you will need to go to Two in a Bush to get the full picture!
- Subtle darker plumage sometimes obviously darker crown and ear coverts
- More often yellow wash to head and breast
- Broader dark feather centres over underparts- white breast centre more ‘filled in (clearer in photo above)
- Dark legs not pale legs
- Undertail coverts feathers extensively or sometimes wholly dark – possibly diagnostic on extreme birds
- Wing length. Any redwing with a wing length up and beyond 124++ mm should attract attention (coburni have on average the longest wings)