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Waxwing

Bohemian Waxwing Waxwing Both Sexes
Pink-beige body, crest, white markings on wings and yellow tail tip.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Bombycilla garrulus
Length: 18-20 cm  (7-8")
Wing Span: 32-35 cm  (11-12")
Weight: 45-70 g  (1½-2½ oz)
Breeding Pairs: None
Present: Winter
Status: Green

Description

Waxwings are about the size of a Starling and in flight they look very similar with their short, triangular wings.

The Waxwing is mostly pink-beige with a characteristic crest. They have a black mask and bib. The tail is tipped with yellow and there are yellow and white markings on the wings; specifically, yellow along the length of the primaries and white at the base of the primary coverts. The secondary wing feathers have red waxy "fingers". The rump is grey and the vent is red. The legs and bill are black.

Juveniles have smaller crests, no black bib and no waxy red "fingers".

Voice

Choose from Quicktime and mp3. Call
  Quicktime mp3

The song is a high pitched trilling "sirrrr".

Feeding

Waxwings are natives of northern Europe where they breed in the summer and feed on insects. They are surprisingly acrobatic while feeding, behaving more like a Tit or Warbler.

They will eat rowan and hawthorn berries in urban gardens. You may also be able to entice Waxwings into your garden by hanging apples from branches.

They often show up around supermarkets and retail parks because many car parks are now bordered with rowan or hawthorn bushes and there are plenty of people to notice these approachable birds.

Nesting

Waxwings do not breed in Britain. The cup-shaped nest is built by both sexes from twigs, grass and moss in pine trees or scrub.

The smooth, glossy pale blue eggs are speckled with black and grey, and are approximately 24 mm by 17 mm in size. The female incubates the eggs by herself. After the young hatch, they are fed by both parents.

Breeding Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
May-June 1 4-6 13-14 15-17

Movements

They occasionally migrate to Britain in the winter; irruptions (sudden invasions of large numbers) occur when rowan berry crops have failed in the north European forests with birds arriving October–March and often staying until April or May.

The last large irruption was winter 2004 with flocks of several hundred birds being reported in many parts of Britain and even reaching extreme southern and western regions.

Conservation

The Waxing is not a species of conservation concern.

My Garden

Graph of garden visits.

Sheffield has become something of a pilgrimage centre for Waxwings as most winters now see small flocks gathering wherever there are berries to be eaten.

In January 2001, one Waxwing visited the garden briefly and then fed on berries in another garden for about half an hour. There had been flocks of over 100 birds in the area during the same week.


Last revision: 26 Dec 2014
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2015.
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