Posted 16th May 2018 by Peter Byrne
The Morecambe Bay Partnership has announced its new 'Bird of the Month' - and to make it easier for residents and visitors to spot, they've chosen one of only two wading birds that have red legs
While some can be seen all year round, the redshank (the bird in question) will typically arrive on the shores of the Bay from Iceland prior to winter. There are around 25,000 breeding pairs that are resident in the UK all year round, while 130,000 redshank which will over-winter.
Preferring to nest on the ground on saltmarsh, the redshank is blissfully unaware that this will leave it hard to spot for anyone strolling by or taking the dog for a walk.
This is something that can become truly disastrous during breeding season. The mother redshank will be easily scared, abandoning the nest in fright, only to then see a gull swoop down to snatch her eggs or young chicks. Another painful moment sees the mother redshank away from the nest for long enough that the eggs are not kept warm enough to be incubated.
With that all said and done, you may wonder how you can spot the bird - the redshank is notoriously noisy, and when feeding in a flock, it will often be the first to raise the alarm.
The species has several different calls, with some sounding like little squeaks, and others being the alarm call which is a long ‘tyuuuu’. You can hear a recording of the bird's call to help you identify it here: https://www.british-birdsongs.uk/redshank/
The red legs are the best way to identify the redshank, while the only other wader with red or orange-red legs is the spotted redshank. However, there are other features that make it easy to identify. The 28-cm long bird has a medium-length, dark bill, with an orange base, a brown speckled back and wings which will turn grey in summer, accompanied with a pale underwing. The paler, speckled belly also acts as a giveaway to its identity. When flying, it has a white triangular wedge up its back, along with a wide white triangle on its rear.
The species is naturally drawn to Morecambe bay for food, as it can enjoy a feast of its favourite delights - this includes molluscs, crustaceans, earthworms and insects. It will seek out its meals by probing the sand and mud with its beak.
Annabelle Kennedy, Morecambe Bay Partnership's Waders and Wildfowl Project Manager, said: "Because the food of Morecambe Bay is so irresistible for the redshank, local residents and visitors can really be instrumental in helping to safeguard this wader."
"All of our breeding waders are in danger and in dire need of protection, so our bird of the month initiative not only allows people to learn more and appreciate all the little quirks of a bird, but also understand how important it is to protect them."
"To accomplish both these things, we are highlighting that the redshank is a great bird to head out to spot, because of its distinctive red legs and its bolder behaviour when on the mudflats either side of high tide, when it needs to fill up on food to provide energy and warmth."
"We are then encouraging people to take pictures from a respectful distance, given that our birds need sufficient rest and food even when not breeding, before sharing these with us with the hashtag #birdsofthebay. In this way, everyone can learn how to identify them and become much more passionate about looking after them."
Photo courtesy of Ken Smith