December 2012. We have received several reports of waxwings in Ireland. Reader Christine Cassidy has provided us with a series of images taken in Derry of a flock of waxwings she spotted. We have also had a report of waxwings in north west Donegal.
Britain has seen a large influx of several thousand waxwings this autumn. With distinctive bright red tips at the end of their dusky pink plumage, square-ended yellow tail feathers and a black ‘highwayman' band running across their eyes, these colourful little birds have big characters. A flock of 1,000 was seen round the Isle of Skye, and several flocks of up to 300 birds have been present in Yorkshire and the Humber region as the birds move south after having depleted berry crops further north.
Breed in the Arctic
Waxwings are birds of the high Arctic and boreal forest, the closest breeding populations being found in Scandinavia. Every few years, flocks of birds erupt, possibly driven by good breeding seasons, or a lack of berries, their main food source. They then fly across the North Sea to spend the winter here. They often congregate in towns and cities, choosing very public sites such as supermarkets or council car parks where the planting of ornamental berry bushes such as rowan or cotoneaster provide great feeding opportunities.