Saturday, 27 November 2010


It`s been a while coming, but finally I have seen a fairly large flock of Waxwings and not only that, but they were on my local patch of Peterborough. These birds were seen in a car park of a local business park on Friday the 26th and were still showing today, sometimes down to 20 yards! There were up to 55 birds in total, ranging from 1st winters to full adults.

The Waxwing is a species which has `eruption` years, that is to say that most years we can get 100 or so birds in the whole of the country, but on `eruption` years, several thousand can be present, this is one such year! They breed in northern Scandinavia and Siberia and come to
Britain when their food source is depleted. The favourite food is berries (indeed a Waxwing can eat 2 or 3 times its own bodyweight in a day), rowan, whitebeam and hawthorn, but they also eat cotoneaster, rose-hips and other winter fruits and seeds. On their breeding grounds they eat insects, especially mosquitoes and midges.

The Waxwing is slightly smaller than a Starling with a prominent crest, black bib, small black mask, a yellow tipped tail and a pattern on the wings of yellow and white, with the secondary flight feathers having a series of `spikes` which look like bright red wax, hence the name Waxwing.

A truly stunning bird!

All digiscoped using Lumix FS15 and Kowa TSN-883 X30


  1. Greetings John,
    Indeed, a truly stunning and beautiful bird. Not only do you delight with the lovely photographs, but your corresponding information is most informative. For this, I thank you kindly.
    Hope you are having a peaceful weekend and stay warm.
    In kindness, Gary.

  2. Thankyou very much for those kind words Gary. This is one bird that I have been waiting to see in numbers for a long time!
    You too keep warm,

  3. What a bunch of posers John. Notice how, in every photo, the bird is trying to show you his best side; no full-on frontals!
    Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

  4. I know bazza, they are real posers, mind you if I looked half as good I would be the same!

  5. These are some beautiful photos of a beautiful bird. When I lived in Kentucky, I had to research and identify these for a friend. Seems there's some kind of tree berry there that they eat (and I don't remember what kind it was) that made them "drunk" and disoriented and then they would fly into windows and knock themselves out, sometimes even dying from it.

    It was a real problem in the city areas where there were lots of windows. They were Cedar Waxwings, not sure if it's exactly the same bird but they looked very similar.

    Very well captured. Excellent shots.

  6. Thankyou very much Sally! The birds can get`drunk` when they eat frostbitten and semi-fermented berries in winter, but apparently they have developed an extremely good liver (better than humans) to cope with it.
    The Cedar Waxwing is a different species which breeds in North America and is an extremely rare vagrant to Britain. They are very similar to these Waxwings, but are slightly smaller with an absence of yellow or white tips to the primaries and have a dull grey-white vent (the bit under the tail) where the Waxwing has a deep rufous vent.
    I`ll take my geek hat off now! Thanks again for the very kind words.

  7. Ah, that’s what I like to read; tips on getting drunk cheep, sorry, I mean cheap. Any particular berries you recommend?
    The enigmatic, masked blogger

  8. Ah Mask, any way of getting drunk on the sly eh? Any fruit berries really, but I here fermented apples are quite good!


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