19th Jan 2024

Waxwing invasion

The irruption of Waxwings into the UK this winter has been the largest for a number of years with thousands of birds recorded across hundreds of locations.

After what was unquestionably the best autumn for North American vagrants ever, the British winter was inevitably going to feel a little flat for many keen birders, however, one of the highlights so far has been the thousands of Waxwings which have been reported across the UK with Rare Bird Alert, for example, logging records from 234 sites between 9-15 January 2024.

These stunning birds are an irruptive migrant to the UK and whilst in some winters only a handful of birds are seen across the country, this winter has been the best for a number of years with impressive numbers being seen.

It is believed that most birds recorded in Great Britain come from Scandanavia and Western Russia, although given what has been learnt over the last 20 years from the satellite tracking of birds (ie many are travelling much further than we had previously thought), it seems quite possible that some Waxwings are also flying significantly further than we might anticipate.

During the first half of January there were a couple of dozen birds in Bushy Park which is adjacent to the palace of Hampton Court which Henry VIII famously confiscated from Cardinal Wolsey and also conveniently close to the Limosa office !! The birds spent much of their time feeding in mistletoe high in some Horse Chestnuts but would occasionally drop down to either drink or feed on lower fruits, giving the assembled birders some fantastic opportunities to enjoy these magnificent birds.

As well as the Bohemian Waxwing (to give it its correct name), there are two other species, Cedar Waxwing which is found in North America and Japanese Waxwing. Despite the name, the latter species does not actually breed in Japan, with the majority breeding in extreme southeast Russia and then moving to Japan and Korea during the winter months.

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20240113122159_3K0A9423 cropped CPC

All photos taken in Bushy Park, Kingston-upon-Thames © Chris Collins, January 2024