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Shooting Welsh wildlife - waxwings

(March 01, 2016)

Shooting Welsh wildlife
Waxwings - winter visitors from the east
by Nigel Addecott



Some years we see hundreds of them, other years (that should read most years) we see none. Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulous) are beautiful seed-eating birds that come from as far afield as China and Japan, although the birds we see here are most likely to come from Scandinavia.

They are a generally a greyish pink with a crest, but close examination will reveal how they get their name. The males have tiny blob-like red feathers to the tips of their wings (which is said to look like sealing wax) and have striking black, white and yellow wing tips. You would pass them of as starlings in flight, but upon hearing their distinct call, they are unmistakable. The easiest way to describe their call is that it sounds very much like a 1970s ‘trimma-phone’. They can form flocks of thousands, or they may been seen individually.

Waxwings in flight

Waxwings, roosting Waxwings, roosting
Waxwings over  Cardiff at dusk

Waxwings, roosting


2011 was a ‘good waxwing year’, with flocks seen around various parts of Cardiff numbering thousands, particularly Roath park lake gardens and the surrounding streets.

They seem to favour rowan trees and bushes and will strip them of their berries in no time. Apples are another firm favourite.


Waxwing amongst the rowan Waxwing amongst the rowan
Waxwing amongst the rowan Waxwing amongst the rowan

Waxwings, roosting

Keep an eye open for these scarce visitors from December on. They can often be found in supermarket car parks feeding on Rowan berries or, if you are very lucky, in your own garden!

Nigel Addecott, March 2016

All images © Nigel Addecott

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