Waxwing

©Jon Hawkins Surrey Hills Photography

Waxwing

Scientific name: Bombycilla garrulus
The waxwing is a colourful winter visitor. It can often be spotted in large flocks in berry-laden bushes in towns, car parks and gardens.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 18cm
Wingspan: 34cm
Weight: 63g
Average lifespan:

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

October to March

About

A starling-sized bird, the waxwing is one of the UK's most exotic-looking birds, with a large, orangey-pink crest. It does not breed in the UK, but is a winter visitor from Northern Europe and can be spotted in flocks on bushes full of berries - it isn't fussy where the bushes are and frequents towns, car parks and gardens. Waxwings prefer Rowan and Hawthorn berries, but can be enticed with hung-up apples. Sudden invasions of large numbers of waxwings (called 'irruptions') occur when the berry crops fail in Northern Europe.

How to identify

The waxwing has a pink crest and breast, a black mask and throat, a grey rump, a black tail that is tipped with bright yellow, and yellow-and-white markings on its wings.

Distribution

A rare winter visitor which can turn up anywhere, particularly in the north and east of the country.

Did you know?

Waxwings tend to prefer eating red berries to orange berries; but they will chose the latter over yellow and white ones. This pattern is seen in many other berry-eating birds. One downside of eating so many berries is that the birds sometimes become a bit intoxicated by fermenting fruit.

How people can help

Whether you live in town or country, you can help to look after garden birds by providing food and water for them. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit the wildlife gardening section of the website, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started. To buy bird food, feeders and other wildlife products, visit the Vine House Farm website - an award-winning wildlife-friendly farm that gives 4% of all its takings plus £10 commission for each new customer to The Wildlife Trusts.