Key facts

Scientific name: Bombycilla garrulus

Status: Winter visitor, varied numbers

Wintering birds: 11,000

Conservation status: Green

Length: 19 – 24 cm

Wingspan: 33 cm

Weight: 55 g


Male Bohemian waxwings have brownish-grey plumage with paler grey rumps and underparts. The flight feathers are black with yellow and white edges.

Waxwings get their name from the pattern on their wings, which have bright red tips that look like wax drops. They have black tails with a bright yellow terminal band.

The head, crown and crest are cinnamon coloured and they have black masks with a small white streak around the eye. Their bills are black, eyes are dark brown and lefs and feet are dark grey.

Female waxwings are very similar to males, except their yellow tail bands are narrower and their black throats are less well defined. Juveniles are duller than adults and they have a shorter crest and no black patch on the throat.


Waxwings are monogamous and both males and females build the nest which is an open cup made from twigs and grasses and lined with softer materials such as moss, plant fibres, feathers and fur. The nest is built on a branch close to the trunk of a tree.

Waxwings lay 3-7 smooth, glossy pale blue eggs speckled with black and grey. During incubation which lasts about 14 days, the female will be fed by the male. Both parents will feed the chicks once hatched before they fledge at 15-17 days.


Bohemian waxwings feed on fruits especially berries from rowan, and hawthorn trees, cotoneaster and rose as well as insects, spiders and snails.


Where to see them

Migrant waxwings arrive from Scandinavia between October and March. They tend to arrive en masse in search of food in a type of migration called an irruption. They can first be spotted on the east coast before moving further inland.


Patrick Turgeon/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Waxwings can eat up to 1,000 berries a day which is twice their body weight and can strip a tree bare of its fruit in hours.

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Identification guides

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