Waxwing

Bombycilla garrulus

18cm

Appearance

The Waxwing is stout and smaller than the Starling, and has a distinctive crest. The plumage is brownish grey with an overall pinkish tinge, particularly evident on the breast. There is a black patch on the throat and a mask-like stripe across the eye. The wings have a white and yellow design on the edges with a series of red projections. The tail has a yellow section on the end, the rump is grey, and the undertail is reddish-brown. In their first winter, birds don't yet have the white edges to the flight feathers, and they lack the protruding red segments.

Habitat

The Waxwing can be quite flexible in its environment in Britain, particularly during winter, residing in places where it can find sufficient food. May be found in gardens and public areas of vegetation. Breeding takes place in forests of the north, especially on pines with moss and lichen growth.

Character

Usually a social bird, mixing in groups of various sizes when not breeding. Often perches in the higher branches of trees, lowering to find food, where they may adopt a plethora of feeding positions. May also take insects from the air.

Food

Predominately eats berries during winter, particularly rowan, whitebeam, hawthorn, cotoneaster, and rose. Diet also includes insects such as mosquitoes and midges.

Breeding

Not a breeding bird of the region. Breeds on northern territories, beginning in mid-June. Female lays 5 or 6 eggs and incubates them for 14-15 days. Both adults tend to the hatchlings, which fledge at about 14-17 days old.

Population

Waxwings may spend winter in their northern breeding areas, but the region sees the first influx in October and November, with most birds departing in April. There are usually no more than 1000 birds spotted in the region, though some years the population has rapid growth due to the lack of food in other regions; at these times, the birds in the region may exceed 11 000.

Observation Tips

These decorated birds can be quite confiding, allowing spectators to within a few metres of them. Waxwings rely quite heavily on berries, so places with abundant berry growth are good places to search for the species. They will not hesitate to visit populated areas in search of berries, so keep an eye out towards the end of winter when sources of food elsewhere may be diminished.

Voice

Has a piercing trill: 'sirrrr'.
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