Scientific name: Bombycilla garrulus

Did you know: Waxwings, renowned for their stunning appearance, are winter visitors to the UK, embarking on nomadic journeys in search of berries during their irruptive seasons.

What Do Waxwings Look Like? (How to Identify Them)

The Waxwing, slightly smaller than a Starling, boasts a plump frame with distinctive features. Its reddish-brown plumage is complemented by a black throat, a small eye mask, and vibrant yellow and white wings. Notably, the bird sports a yellow-tipped tail and a conspicuous crest. 

During winter, these enchanting visitors, numbering around 10,000, grace the UK with their presence, creating awe-inspiring irruptions in response to the population’s needs in their breeding grounds.

Differences Between Male and Female Waxwings

Waxwings exhibit no significant differences in plumage between males and females. Both sport the same captivating features, including the red-tipped wing feathers that develop with age. Their synchronised courtship rituals involve the exchange of fruit or small objects, marking the beginning of their breeding season.

What Do Waxwings Eat?

Primarily arboreal, Waxwings rely on a fruit-dominated diet throughout the year. Their culinary journey starts with summer insects, transitioning to a fall feast of raspberries, blackberries, and cherries. In winter, they turn to juniper berries, grapes, crabapples, and other available fruits. Remarkably, when berries are scarce, they resort to sap, buds, flowers, and even insects, showcasing their adaptability.

Where Do Waxwings Live? (Including Migration Info)

Waxwings, not classified as long-distance migrants, exhibit nomadic tendencies outside the breeding season. They predominantly nest in northern forests, selecting sites rich in fruit supplies. Come winter, they embark on erratic journeys, with the UK being a sought-after destination during irruption years. Notably, a significant flock arrived in rural Derbyshire in January 2024, creating a captivating spectacle.

Bird Calls & Songs (The Unique Voices of Waxwings)

Waxwings communicate through high-pitched, buzzing, or trilling monosyllables, resembling soft, jingling sleigh bells. Their chatty calls often fill the air as they move through landscapes, contributing to the enchanting ambiance of a ‘waxwing winter.’

Fun Waxwing Facts (Kid Friendly)

  • Waxwings are smaller than Starlings but boast a more enchanting appearance.
  • Their red-tipped wing feathers develop as they age, creating a distinctive feature.
  • Waxwings engage in playful courtship rituals, passing fruits or small objects back and forth.
  • These birds are skilled in adapting their diet, indulging in berries, sap, buds, flowers, and insects.
  • During winter, they embark on nomadic journeys, creating spectacular irruptions in their numbers.
  • Waxwings prefer red berries, but when in short supply, they settle for orange or yellow alternatives.
  • A captivating sight during ‘waxwing winters’ is witnessing flocks feasting in unexpected urban locations.

Facts About The Waxwing

Diet: Berries, particularly rowan and hawthorn, but also cotoneaster and rose.
Bird Family: Waxwings
Length: 18 cm
Wingspan: 32-35cm
Weight: 45-70 g
Scientific Name: Bombycilla garrulus

The Waxwing Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • October
  • November
  • December

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