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Found around muddy shorelines all year but more common in winter.

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Whilst not the most numerous wader on the Dorset coast the redshank (Tringa totanus) is probably one of the most common; by common I mean most frequently and easily seen. Like many waders they are found on tidal mudflats where they feed on exposed mud at low tide and the natural harbours of Dorset and the Fleet are ideal habitat for them. The distribution map shows this quite clearly with virtually all reports coming from the various sites in Poole and Christchurch harbours and from points along the Fleet shore line.

With many birds there is something, one specific feature, that stands out. It may a feature of its colouring or perhaps its size, posture, shape, flight, movement on the ground, behaviour, call or song, habitat, anything and quite often a species will display that characteristic and you know straight away what species it is. Find that feature, remember it and you are well on the way impressing your friends with your bird identification skills. This is an easy one of course, a wader with red legs, it has to be a redshank , it can be nothing else (Other than the rarer spotted redshank!).

Redshank can be seen all year round as the weekly reports chart clearly shows and it is interesting that there are more sightings in the second half of the year; especially from week 25 to 35 and I am left to ponder why this might be. This chart is saying that the most reports are in June and July during the wader breeding season and yet it is believed very few pairs breed at sites in Dorset. The answer may lie in the vagaries of Twitter reporting of interesting sightings. During the autumn, winter and spring they are commonly seen and so are not deemed interesting enough to report whereas in summer they are one of the few species of wader about on our shores and so become more 'reportable'; I may be wrong but I can see no other obvious reason. There may be migratory influences in these reports but that would make the redshank one of the earliest migrating waders passing through. Whilst there will be movement in the redshank population there is no apparent increase in sightings during the spring period to show the reports reflect migration waves.

There were twice as many reports of redshank in 2018 than in 2017 but I do not think there is any real significance in terms of population in this rather simplistic statistic.

Most reports come from Ferrybridge and from Lytchett Bay and if redshank is on your 'hit list' then Ferrybridge any time of year, but especially late summer and autumn, would seem your best chance to see them although they can also be 'guaranteed' at low tide at Arne on the Middlebere channel and off Shipstall


Common Name Redshank
Scientific Name Tringa totanus
Species Group Birds Sandpipers
Status Frequent
Interest Level
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Look for

A wader with bright red legs

Identification Notes
  • Can be seen anytime of year but numbers are significantly boosted by incoming birds during the autumn and winter
  • Can be seen on mudflats feeding at low tide and on saltmarsh during high tides
  • The red legs are diagnostic but note that the rarer spotted redshank also has red legs 
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Sandpipers