There are only three species of waxwing and this is the widespread one found all round the North Pole breeding in the Northern-most forest zones with tall, dense stands of spruce, pine and birch. The birds are insectivorous at the breeding sites and frugivorous in the winter - although they will take insects if they are available.
The birds move South for the winter and in some years the birds irrupt. That is, they move much further than usual as the fruit resources they would normally eat are depleted. In these circumstances more than 10,000 may turn up in Britain and the birds may be found in city centres, car parks, gardens - wherever shrubs bearing berries like mahonia, cotoneaster, pyracantha, holly etc. or fruiting trees like crab apples, ordinary apples or pears are available.
These are really stunning birds and go around in flocks uttering a soft trilling call. They are basically pink birds with yellow tips to a darker tail and amazing shocking pink waxy extensions to the greater coverts. There is a pink crest to the head and nice dark stripe between the bill and eye. In North America there is also the Cedar Waxwing and this one is called the Bohemian Waxwing.
The Waxwing of the Western palearctic.
Length 180 mm Closed wing 117 mm Weight 65 gms
A Bird On! Sketch by Chris Mead
Copyright © 1996 by Jacobi Jayne & Company and Chris Mead