Sign up for our Free email Newsletter
and get all the latest wildlife news!

Browse Old Articles


Has anyone seen any Waxwings this winter?

23/11/2008 22:38:28

Waxwing. Photo credit Jill Pakenham/BTO.


Waxwings are highly distinctive birds, about the size of a Starling, brown-pink in colour with a prominent crest and a black chin. On their wings they have beautiful red waxy tips. More information can be found on BirdFacts.

The last few weeks have seen the arrival on the north-east coast of Britain of over 1,000 Waxwings from Scandinavia. With some of these beginning to move south, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) wants to know where they are now.

November 2008. The BTO's Bird Atlas 2007-11 project aims to map the distribution of Waxwings, along with all other species regularly wintering in Britain and Ireland over a four-year period. November 1st 2008 saw the start of the second winter of Atlas fieldwork and coincided with an excellent arrival of Waxwings to the east coast of Scotland and England. Since their arrival, flocks of Waxwings have been moving slowly westwards in search of food.

Given the good numbers recorded so far this winter, we hope that it will prove to be an excellent year for this enigmatic species. So far their distribution is mostly east and north of a line from the Dee Estuary to the Thames. Will they spread westwards in coming weeks?

October 2008 waxwing distribution. Courtesy BTO.

October 2008 waxwing distribution. Courtesy BTO.

Familiar to many people because of their love of berries, they can be found in gardens, supermarket car parks, city centre parks - almost anywhere with ornamental bushes or native trees with lots of berries. Their distinctive appearance; a beautiful mix of soft pinks and buffs with splashes of bright yellow and red, topped off with a black ‘robber's mask' and a magnificent crest, make this Starling-sized bird noticeable by birdwatchers and non-birdwatchers alike.

Varying numbers every year
Numbers of Waxwings reaching Britain and Ireland vary from year to year and ‘invasion years' are characterised by a failure of berry crops in Scandinavia. Typically they arrive in eastern Britain, strip bushes of berries and move on in search of more food. In ‘classic' years birds reach Wales, Ireland and south-west England.

How to tell BTO about your sighting
If you have seen a Waxwing since 1 November then Bird Atlas 2007-11 wants to hear about it. You can enter your records online at (register and follow links to Roving Records) or by requesting a form from BTO. In addition to Waxwing, all other species you see in the winter can be recorded, and by gathering records over a four-year period we will be able to compile comprehensive species maps and start to investigate changes in distributions since the last Winter Atlas in 1981-84.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

To post a comment you must be logged in.

New user? Register here


Click join and we will email you with your password. You can then sign on and join the discussions right away.