Ian’s Bird of the Week – Common Redshank ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 11-1-12
Here’s one for the wader enthusiasts: the Common Redshank, well ‘common’ in Eurasia and rather rare in Australia. It occurred to me when I was photographing these birds in Ireland in September, that, for birders, the appeal of a particular species is very dependent on location. Common Redshanks are noteworthy in Australia (I remember looking quite hard before finding one in Broome) but perhaps a nuisance in Ireland because they’re ubiquitous, nervous and noisy and often put more unusual waders to flight when you least want them to.
The one in the first photo is foraging at low tide in the harbour at Carlingford Lough, an attractive bay between the Republic and Northern Ireland on the east coast and overlooked on the northern side by the Mourne Mountains. The two in the second photo are feeding in the mudflats in the estuary of the River Boyne some distance downstream from where the famous Battle of the Boyne took place in 1690. The bird on the right has just taken a tiny crab.
The birds in the first two photos are in non-breeding plumage. Some wader species undergo spectacular colour changes when breeding, but in the Common Redshank the markings just become more pronounced, as in the third photo, taken in Portugal in the month of June some years ago.
The bright red legs, or shanks, make this a relatively easy wader to identify. It’s ringing call is also distinctive and it shows a characteristic wing pattern in flight with white panels on the rear edge of the wing, as in the fourth photo, quite different from the wing bar or plain wing of most waders.
The generic name Tringa is from the ancient Greek trungas ‘a thrush-sized bird mentioned by Aristotle, not further identified, but taken by later authors to be a sandpiper, a wagtail or a dipper‘. That’s equivalent to saying that this fruit is either an orange, a pineapple or a banana. And totanus comes from the Italian name totano for a Redshank. Sometimes the derivation of scientific names is informative, sometimes less so.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 firstname.lastname@example.org
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The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea That pass through the paths of the seas. (Psalms 8:8 NKJV)
What a neat little bird. I especially like the 3rd photo showing the red, hence, Redshank. Thanks again, Ian.
Common Redshanks in breeding plumage are a marbled brown color, slightly lighter below. In winter plumage they become somewhat lighter-toned and less patterned, being rather plain greyish-brown above and whitish below. They have red legs and a black-tipped red bill, and show white up the back and on the wings in flight.
(Sound from xeno-canto.org)
Common Redshank – Naturia
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) – Ocean Wanderers Guide
Scolopacidae – Birdway (Ian’s)