Wildlife In Focus | Bohemian Waxwing

David Coultham

Species Guide | Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)

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Video | Everything You Need To Know About The Bohemian Waxwing

APPEARANCE

The Bohemian Waxwing, or simply Waxwing as it is often referred to in the U.K. is a plump bird with a very distinctive patterning. They are red-brown in color with black around their eyes, yellow and white markings in their wings, and a yellow-tipped tail.

Did You Know? The name Waxwing dates back to when we used sealing wax on letters and other important documents, as the wings of the bird look almost like they have been dipped in wax!

Image Credit | WildMediaSK

Diet

Waxwings in the U.K. are typically recognized for their love of berries, in particular rowan and hawthorn. In reality, they are omnivorous as they also consume insects such as midges and mosquitos which they snatch from the air whilst perched, as well as gleaning them from vegetation.

HABITAT

Waxwings live across the Northern Hemisphere, but typically only visit the U.K. in late Autumn/Winter in search of food; when it becomes scarce in their breeding grounds. They typically visit farmland and urban/semi-urban environments but can be spotted in many lowland areas. Global population estimates support that there are more than 3 million Bohemian Waxwings distributed over 4.9 million square miles. The U.K. visiting population is estimated at up to 100 thousand birds.

Note that this map is for a rough illustration of animal distribution across the UK1, whereby light blue indicates typical winter populations. The European Breeding Bird Atlas provide a useful map of Waxwing breeding grounds4.

Behavior

The Waxwing is a nomadic bird, traveling far and wide in search of its favorite food. Indeed, its English name Bohemian Waxwing refers to its nomadic lifestyle. They tend to travel in flocks of birds which enables them to overwhelm other birds in their feeding grounds. Waxwings are synonymous with their insatiable appetite, eating hundreds of berries in a day.

Bohemian Waxwing Call:

Skyler Bol, xeno-canto.org

Waxwings leave their wintering grounds in early Spring and head back to their breeding grounds. They are monogamous in nature. Nests are built by both birds from twigs and then lined with grass, moss, and fur. Eggs are incubated for up to two weeks by the female and can consist of up to 7 eggs. During this period, the male is responsible for gathering food. After hatching, they are fed by both parents and take roughly two more weeks to leave the nest.

Image Credit | WildMediaSK

STATS

Wing Length2113-121 mm
Body Weight351-66 grams
Longevity5 Years

NATURAL PREDATORS

The Eurasian Sparrowhawk is the main predator of the waxwing, but they can also be predated upon by a number of mammals.

Conservation Status

Waxwings are classified as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and are Green Listed in the U.K.

U.K.
Conservation Status

Global
Conservation Status



References

  1. Population data based on BTO assessment
  2. Featherbase
  3. RSPB
  4. EBBA
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