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Juvenile and 1w birds are essentially told from winter adults by the scalloped appearance of the coverts on the closed wing, patterning on tertials and the colour of their bill and legs. Juvenile coverts have buff fringing, whereas winter adult coverts show whitish fringing and a dark subterminal band. Note however that, depending on the autumn or winter month, both 1w and winter adult birds can have a scalloped appearance on the closed wing, and so the tertial patterning should be relied upon as the best ageing guide.
Juvenile and 1w tertials are dogtooth, sometimes with a whitish fringe, appearing notched or lanceolated as winter progresses. Note that this whitish fringe can also be seen in adult birds (see the photo of a 4cy bird at the foot of this page).
Juvenile legs and bill are coloured yellowy-brown, changing to a more orange colour as winter progresses, and by Jan/Feb are a deeper red-orange similar to adults.
2 cy winter birds are best told from adults by the patterning on their tertials. Unmoulted, juvenile tertials will be faded (notched) and may show whitish fringing, whereas moulted-in adult non-breeding tertials will be largely unmarked, maybe showing some faded sepia barring (see graphic below).
2 cy summer birds around Jul-Sept can be told by white secondaries showing on the closed wing, during their post-breeding moult into adult non-breeding plumage. The secondaries are exposed by the (temporary) absence of moulted-out tertials and GCs. This characteristic is also exhibited by Black-tailed Godwits when moulting into non-breeding plumage.
Winter adult birds can, in early- to mid- winter, have coverts showing a scalloped appearance on the closed wing, similar to 1w birds, and so the tertial pattering and bare parts are the best ageing guides. Winter adult tertials are largely unpatterned, in some cases showing faded sepia barring (see graphic below). The wing coverts show buffish fringing and (unlike J and 1w coverts) a dark subterminal band, both of which features are increasingly difficult to tell in the field as the feathers wear as winter progresses. So focus on the tertials and the bare parts. The bill and legs of winter adult birds are a deep orangey-red.
Note that some Common Redshank will breed only in their third calendar year, and so in their second calendar year will show plumages that are intermediate between non-breeding and adult breeding.
Graphic by Włodzimierz Meissner and Tomasz Cofta, showing progressive abrasion of juvenile tertials, and typical patterning of adult non-breeding tertials. The arrow indicates a typical juvenile tertial.
1w bird with adult winter-type tertials (x2) and (showing underneath) one worn, notched juvenile tertial (see also graphic above). Note the orange colouring of legs and bill.
2cy bird photographed in Jan, told by the white edged tertial, the small, white-edged scapulars and small neat lesser coverts.
Adult winter bird in non-breeding plumage. Note deep red legs, and sepia barring (not dogtooth notching) on tertials. Confusingly, there is also whitish fringing on one of the tertials, and the wing coverts have a scalloped appearance; both characteristics shared with 1w. The rings on this bird confirmed it as a 4cy bird.
Click here for more species of shorebird and wader in our guide to identification and plumage.