Welcome to the first in our series of blogs on seasonal species to look out for, with a few of our best tips for success thrown in. We’re kicking off with one of the very best birds winter has to offer: the wonderful waxwing.

This is one of those birds that has it all. It looks stunning with a punky crest, pink-hued plumage and, depending on age and sex, a beautiful combo of waxy-red, yellow and white on its wings. It has a rippling, bell-like call which makes a wonderful sound from a big flock. It is super confiding and it doesn’t mater if you live in the countryside or a town or city because they can, and do, turn up anywhere. They’re entertaining to watch as they greedily gobble berries down, systematically stripping a bush and usually dropping as many as they eat!  Finally, waxwings are enigmatic in their appearances: in some winters there are thousands and in others hardly any, begging the question as to whether it will be a “waxwing winter”...


Sure to brighten up any winter's day - a waxwing, or better still a whole flock of 'em (Andy Hay rspb-images.com)

The jury is still out on whether this will be a waxwing winter, but as the days are passing, more and more are arriving in a trickle rather than a flood so far. They have reached the west side of the UK now and into Ireland, so it is well worth keeping your eyes and ears out for a flock of these visitors over the next few weeks. You might get a bonus Christmas present.

Top tips for finding waxwings

  • Waxwings will be where the food is and these hungry birds love rowan (and various cultivated forms), hawthorn and guelder rose berries. Those in very built up areas can last much longer into the winter than those in the countryside because thrushes are generally shyer than waxwings.
  • Don’t shy away from doing the Christmas shopping. Retail parks and supermarket car parks are great places for finding waxwings due to the widespread planting of berry-bearing shrubs and trees there.

  • Learn that beautiful trilling call, so you don't miss out on an encounter. You can listen to a waxwing on the RSPB website.

  • Look twice at any “starlings” you see flying over and perched up in trees. In silhouette, there is not a lot of difference between starlings and waxwings, apart form that crest of course.

 Let us know if you see any. Nature's Home readers have reported them from a few spots already, with Yorkshire doing pretty well at present. Good luck!

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