Wonders of the Waxwings
Waxwings remind us of the punks of the bird world. Not because of their inappropriate behaviour or dressing room demands, but because of their beautiful Mohawks, or crests as they are officially called.
Waxwings are small, chunky birds with short little legs and a grey body flecked with bright yellow, red, black and white.
These unusual birds fly from Scandinavia to the UK intermittently from one winter to the next. If berries and food are generally in short supply in their home country and you can expect to see them from November through to April.
They are not always guaranteed to the UK, so it is a pure joy when you are lucky enough to see one feasting in the hedgerow or on your travels through the countryside.
Their feathery and pointy grey crest is used for attracting females, the more impressive the crest the more likely they will find themselves with a mate.
The bird world can be pretty fickle when it comes to dating and looks do count. Sadly they do not breed in the UK, they head back to Europe to find a mate and raise their brood.
It’s all in a name
Waxwings take their name from the red tips on their wings and feathery cheeks (secondary feathers) – The red flecks are said to resemble dripping wax. Due to the heavy black markings on their face, they often look like they are frowning or are being seemingly aggressive.
Waxwings are typically drawn to northern and eastern parts of the UK. This is mainly due to the breeding grounds, but as they work their way through the berry crops they will often fly South on the hunt for more berries.
In a good year, the UK could expect anywhere in the region of 12,000 Waxwings! You can just imagine the beautiful site of thousands of red flecked Waxwings on the horizon.
Waxwings simply LOVE berries. They are not fussy when it comes to the type of berry although like any species they have their favourite! Rowan Berries are their preference; the bright red berries are strong and bitter to taste and can be poisonous to humans but to a Waxwing, they are gold dust.
They will also feast on Rosehips, Hawthorn & Juniper. When you need to eat anything from 700 – 1000 berries a day just to survive you soon learn not to be fussy. In the summer months, they will snack on fresh prey such as midges and other small insects.
However, do not confuse their love of berries with a love of fruit. Overripe fruit can actually be potentially dangerous for Waxwings; their little bodies cannot handle the fermentation.
We have it on good authority Waxwings have recently been spotted in Northumberland, so if you live in Northern England you may well be fortunate enough to see a few more over the coming months.
Remember, they like feasting on berries which are typically hidden in hedgerows and usually feast in numbers, if you want to improve your chances of spotting one or fifty a stroll through the local countryside will greatly improve your chances.
You can also follow @waxwingsUK on twitter to keep up to date with where and when they have been spotted.
They have not been visiting the UK in great numbers over the last few years, so taking the time to get out and about to try and spot a Waxwing might be your last chance for a couple of winters.
We are yet to see one on the farm, but we remain ever hopeful. Keep an eye on our Instagram feed to see if we have been fortunate enough to be Waxwinged this winter.