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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, M., W. & F. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland), Pohjolan linnut värikuvin. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Waxwing

Bombycilla garrulus

  • Family: Waxwings – Bombycillidae
  • Appearance: Striking, with distinctive crests and black bibs and masks. Stockily built, in flight resembles Starling.
  • Size: Length 18–21 cm, weight 48–72 g.
  • Nest: In a spruce or pine tree at a height of 1.5–8 m. Made of moss, lichen and dry spruce twigs, lined with beard lichen, straw, hair and feathers.
  • Breeding: 4–6 eggs laid in May–June, incubated by female for 14 days. Fledglings remain in nest for 15–19 days.
  • Distribution: Breeds in coniferous forests in Northern Finland, also occasionally in the south. Finnish breeding population estimated at 20,000–90,000 pairs.
  • Migration: Roams widely in flocks on invasions, by day. Often seen in Southern Finland in late September and early October. When berries are scarce, flocks rapidly move further south, even as far as the Mediterranean and the Caucasus. In good years for berries flocks remain in Finland until December or even February. Return migration much less conspicuous, between March and May.
  • Diet: Berries, seeds, invertebrates.
  • Calls: A clear and distinctive trilling call. Song a modest series of chirping phrases.

Waxwings are Starling-sized birds with long, thick crests. They look dark from a distance, but the beautiful colouring and details on their plumage become evident when viewed more closely. They are generally pinkish brown in colouring, with a black bib and eye-mask. Their mainly black wingtips have white and yellow markings, and their tails are dark brown with a bright yellow band along the tip. Their name comes from the unusual bright red waxy tips to their innermost secondary and tertial wing feathers).

Waxwings’ legs are black (mature birds) or pinkish (juveniles). Their beaks are black with a reddish base (mature birds) or dark grey (juveniles). Their irises are red (mature birds) or dark brown (juveniles). Mature birds can also be recognised by the bright yellow or white stripes on the edges and tips of their primary wing feathers. Younger birds only have pale yellowish edges to their primaries.

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