By Michael J. Good
Three Pines Bird Sanctuary
TOWN HILL— There are about 463 species of birds recorded for Maine. Adding Maine “life birds” to your “life list” gets more difficult as you reach 318 species for Maine and 313 species for Hancock County. It means you have to take road trips and spend time searching miles of the state to find new bird species you have never seen in Maine.
Sometimes a record bird comes to you, like the recent Mount Desert Island varied thrush (Ixoreus naevius) on Nov. 15, 2020, which spent at least two days at a feeder complex on Old County Road that included fruit–ladened trees. The thrush family all enjoy a great deal of fruit in their diets, allowing humans an opportunity to take photos and written records for science and books.
On Feb. 3, a trip was planned for Capisic Pond Park in Portland, where a recently–discovered European species called a redwing (Turdus iliacus) was found on Jan. 29 by Brendan McKay. The redwing was foraging in the bountiful fruit of expansive introduced multi-flora rose in this suburban Maine park.
The redwing is seen regularly in Europe where it is a ubiquitous migrant in the Netherlands. It’s a robin–sized bird with a cinnamon–brown crown, prominent white supercilium and a yellow lower mandible. The redwing is a heavily streaked Turdus species with reddish brown flanks, white malar and malar strip, a brown cheek patch and lore’s blending in nicely with its multi-flora rose background. There is red in the wing, but only on the underside. For the perched bird, the red shows up only as a rust color along the shoulders and flanks. This European species is known to stray into the northeastern North America, but mostly in winter and most likely due to aberrant winds.
Redwings breed in northern regions of Europe and Asia, from Iceland south to northernmost Scotland. Like the varied thrush, these are tundra nesting birds. Icelandic redwing (Turdus iliacus coburni) are often the birds that end up in Maine and the Northeast and are referred to as the Icelandic race. Portland’s redwing could be from anywhere and is recorded as Turdus iliacus. They can be found in eastern Europe Scandinavia, the Baltic States, northern Poland and Belarus, and through most of Russia. Recently, redwings have expanded their range, both in eastern Europe where it breeds southward into northern Ukraine, and in southern Greenland.
The redwing is a migratory thrush, wintering in and passing through western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia and east to northern Iran. Birds in some parts of the west of the breeding range, particularly southwestern Norway, may be resident, and not migrating at all, while those in the far east of the range migrate at least 6,500–7,000 km to reach their wintering grounds.