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Bohemian Waxwing - BirdForum Opus

(Redirected from Bombycilla garrulus)
Adult female
Photo by Rayh
Photographed at Spurn Point, E. Yorks
Bombycilla garrulus


Length 19-23 cm, weight 34-85 g

  • A sleek, pinkish-grey-brown, crested bird.
  • Black throat and eye mask.
  • Secondaries with white subterminal tip, and a small waxy red extreme tip on some or all secondaries (variable with sex and age).
  • Yellow tail tip.
  • Very gregarious, often forming large flocks.
  • Adult male: primaries with yellow-and-white 'V' on the tip, forming a yellow line with white tick marks on the closed wing; secondaries with 6-8 red 'wax' tips; black throat patch with sharp lower edge.
  • Adult female: primaries as adult male; secondaries with 3-7 red 'wax' tips; black throat patch with diffuse lower edge.
  • First-winter male: primaries with single pale yellow streak on the tip, forming a yellow line (no ticks) on the closed wing; secondaries with 4-8 red 'wax' tips; black throat patch with sharp lower edge.
  • First-winter female: primaries as first-winter male; secondaries with 0-5 red 'wax' tips; black throat patch with diffuse lower edge.
  • Juvenile: dull, streaked darker brown; throat pale; moults to first-winter plumage before leaving breeding areas.

Similar species

Similar to Cedar Waxwing and Japanese Waxwing but larger, greyer-bellied, and with conspicuous small white wing patches; additionally from Cedar Waxwing by rusty (not white) undertail coverts, and from Japanese Waxwing by yellow (not red) tail tip. Flocks in flight at a distance can be mistaken for Common Starling flocks, as they share similar size and wing shape.


Old World

Breeds rather sparsely in north-central Sweden, northeastern Norway, the northern half of Finland, and more commonly across northern Russia between about 60°N and 67°N.

Adult male
Photo by Ron McCombe
Musselburgh, Lothian, Scotland, January 2009

A partial migrant with some birds remaining in breeding range through the winter but most making irregular invasions further south and southwest; direction and distance travelled are affected by food availability. Normal winter range extends throughout Scandinavia, Germany, Bohemia (after where named), and Netherlands in the west and south to the Black Sea in the east. Variable numbers reach Britain, mainly on the east coast from Shetland to Norfolk; during irruption years more widely, usually in October - November and staying until March - April, rarely later although summering birds have occurred in northern Scotland. Usually only reaches Ireland during major irruptions.

New World

Breeds from Alaska, Yukon, Mackenzie, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba south to central Washington, northern Idaho, and northwestern Montana. Wanders irregularly farther south and east during winter.


Photo by Sandpiper
Marston, Lincolnshire, UK, November 2012


There are 3 subspecies[1]:

  • B. g. garrulus:
  • Fenno-Scandia to western Siberia; winters to central and western Europe
  • B. g. centralasiae:
  • B. g. pallidiceps:

The subspecies differ only marginally, with slight variation in the colour tone and intensity; individual birds are not usually identifiable to subspecies, with the differences only detectable in the average across numerous specimens[2].


Breeds in the taiga, usually in pine or spruce, sometimes mixed with birch, rarely in mountains but found in foothills and lowlands. In autumn seeks berry-bearing trees and bushes and occurs in gardens, parks and along hedgerows on farmland and on roadsides.



They nest in a pine tree and the nests are lined with fine grass, moss, and down. Eggs 4 to 6, pale blue with black spots and lines, incubated for 14 days; the young fledge about 13 to 15 days later.


The diet comprises insects in summer (primarily mosquitos), and berries, supplemented by insects if available, in autumn and winter; also feeds on catkins (particularly of poplar) in spring. The preferred berries are juicier species like rowan and viburnum; drier fruit like hawthorn and cotoneaster are taken when the rowan crop is exhausted. When feeding on drier berries, Waxwings seek access to plentiful drinking water.


High-pitched, lisping seeee, louder and more ringing than call of Cedar Waxwing. Occasional soft calling from feeding flocks, rising to an intense crescendo when flock preparing to fly off.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, B.L. Sullivan, C. L. Wood, and D. Roberson. 2012. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to October 2012. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019. Spreadsheet available at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/downloadable-clements-checklist
  2. Svensson, L. (1992). Identification Guide to European Passerines, 4th ed. Stockholm.

Recommended Citation

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