We don’t often see redwings in our garden on the western edge of central London. It is not their natural territory.  Occasionally when mid-winter weather has been very cold, with frost-hardened ground, they will venture to the city for food. Two days ago I was watching a pair of blackbirds apparently courting in a tree at the end of the garden, when 5 redwings landed in the branches beside them. By the time I had found my camera and returned to the window, only one redwing remained. I fired off some shots rather hopefully through the glass, before the bird flew off…

Reddish underwing – checkRedwing, London 1

Speckled front and pale flash above the eye – checkRedwing, London 2

A bit of zoom to confirm the IDRedwing, London 3

We last had a redwing in the garden couple of years ago, during a prolonged frosty period. I was watching it on the lawn from an upstairs window when suddenly out of the air came a blur of speeding feathers followed by a loud squawk. A sparrowhawk had found its breakfast. I watched it eviscerate to redwing and feast on it for about 15 minutes. After it flew off, I examined the scene of the crime. All that remained of the redwing was a pathetic ring of feathers and its orange beak. The bones and even the feet had all gone. There was a sad little area of melted frost where the deed had been done. Here is a sequence of photos of the drama, mostly taken through glass in the early morning. Notice the growing ring of ripped out feathers as the corpse disappears…

Redwing & Sparrowhawk, London 2 Redwing & Sparrowhawk, London 3 Redwing & Sparrowhawk, London 4 Redwing & Sparrowhawk, London 5 Redwing & Sparrowhawk, London 6

CSI photograph showing the last remains of the victimRedwing & Sparrowhawk, London 1


  1. I think they come into the UK more during very severe winters, that’s when I have seen them. Looking at the sad pile of feathers I think I have cursed cats on occasions when they may not have been guilty.


    1. I think the ring of feathers is the sign – the bird kind of circles the carcass, keeping it pinned down in the same place and in a non-Irish sense tossing the feathers as it rotates. Don’t cats just skulk away with the kill and hide it? Or leave it on the doorstep as a ‘present’? Maybe I’m confusing that with Am@z@n delivery drivers… RH


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