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Waxwings

 

More accurately termed the Bohemian Waxwing, due to its tendency to wander widely and to distinguish it from the smaller Cedar Waxwing which does not come to the UK.

The term Waxwing refers to the red tips on some of the wing feathers which are said to resemble bits of sealing wax.

Adult males have 6-8 waxy tips, adult females have 5-7, juvenile males have 4-8 and juvenile females 0-5.

Adults have white bars on the wings which meet a yellow edge.  Young birds lack the white bars and the yellow is very faint.

Adult males have a black bib while adult females have an indistinct grey bib. Males also have more yellow on the tail.

They usually live in areas such as Scandinavia and Siberia. They come to the UK when their usual food supplies are low.  A bumper berry crop produces a baby boom, but is usually followed by a poor berry crop. This forces larger numbers of birds to the UK and is known as a population eruption.

They start to arrive in the UK sometime in October and are seen first along the east coast.  As numbers increase they spread across the country, but are rarely seen as far south as the south west unless numbers are particularly large or the weather is extremely cold. They are usually gone by the end of March.

They are particularly fond of the berries of rowan, white beam and hawthorn and will consume up to 3 times their body weight in food each day.

Video footage is also available.

For waxwing sightings in Somerset check the bird news page at:  somerset ornithological society

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