Waxwing - a striking winter visitor


Waxwing - a striking winter visitor

This very smart and distinctive bird with its tufted head is not a British resident but sometimes appears in large flocks in Britain in the winter, typically gathering in berry-bearing trees and bushes.

The waxwing is a plump bird, which is slightly smaller than a starling. It has a prominent crest. It is reddish-brown with a black throat, a small black mask round its eye, yellow and white in the wings and a yellow-tipped tail. It does not breed here, but is a winter visitor. In some years it arrives in large numbers, called irruptions, when the population in its breeding grounds in Scandinavia gets too big for the food available.

Waxwings feed mainly on insects in the forests of northern Europe over the summer breeding period, but turn to berries, particularly rowan and hawthorn, but also cotoneaster and rose, in the autumn in the UK. Interestingly, since these are common features that surround many supermarkets, it’s often possible to spot a waxwing or two while out shopping for groceries in a local ASDA or Tesco.

The first British arrivals each winter are usually seen on the east coast from Scotland to East Anglia, but birds move inland in search of food, increasing the chances of seeing one away from the coast.

Waxwings are quite long-lived for small birds, and can live for thirteen years or more.

Further reading

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