Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Bristol Birds: Waxwings!

Bohemian Waxwing, Bristol
The UK is currently experiencing an invasion of Waxwings. These starling-sized birds originate in Scandinavia and Siberia where they breed, but travel to the UK in the winter to feed on berries. Usually they mostly stay in Scotland and eastern England, but this year the flocks have spread much further to the southwest and are now found in the Bristol area close to where I live.

Rowan berries are a major draw for Waxwings
The birds photographed were in the car park of Bradley Stoke shopping centre. They were alternating between staying in the tall trees overlooking the car wash and flying down to feed on the Rowan berries in the trees that are planted between the parking spaces. Waxwings are often very tolerant of close approach as they are not used to being threatened by people in the remote forests where they spend most of their lives.
Japanese Waxwing
There are actually three species of Waxwing. The ones now visiting us are called Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garulus), and their range extends across Eurasia to north west North America. In the Russian Far East a much more localised species, the Japanese Waxwing B.japonica is classed as Near Threatened as a result of deforestation and bird trapping. In North America the third species, the Cedar Waxwing B.cedrorum, is widespread and in winter they move south from their Canadian breeding grounds into the US and sometimes as far as northern South America. The two widespread species are both classed as Least Concern by the IUCN.
Cedar Waxwing
Waxwings are extreme specialists in fruit, which they consume almost entirely as soon as the first species ripen in summer through autumn and winter. In spring they switch to buds, flowers and sap. Especially when nesting they also take many insects, either by fly catching or gleaning through foliage.
Bohemian Waxwing nest
A fairly typical cup-shaped nest is built on a branch fairly close to the trunk, and several pairs may nest fairly close to each other. Up to 7 eggs are incubated solely by the female for 14 days, and fledging takes another 14, with both parents feeding the young. Once the young have fledged they become nomadic, and can appear well out of the breeding range as they roam in search of fresh berry supplies, which is why they appeared in a busy car park in Bristol.

(Bohemian waxwings photographed by me, other images from Wikipedia)

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