Thursday, December 29, 2016

Bohemian Waxwings Arrive

Abundant Winter Fruit Brings Waxwings

Bohemian Waxwing [Brian Stone Photo]

This is a winter of abundant wild fruit.  The apple, mountain ash, wild cherry, cranberry, and other edible wild bushes are laden with fruit.  This brings flocks of fruit-eating birds to our area.  

Last week I visited the Post Office on Hughes Street and was treated to a display of Bohemian Waxwings second to none.  There were about 75 birds feeding on the crab apples in the two trees in front of the building.  Many more were resting in the trees in the hedgerow behind the building.  They were emitting their constant twitters and chatter.  It was wonderful to listen and watch.  

Bohemian Waxwings

Bohemian Waxwings normally travel in large flocks and are here only in winter.  They breed in summer in Alaska and the northern parts of Canada and spend their winters wandering around the more southern regions of Canada and northern US.  They are a holarctic species being abundant also in northern Europe and Asia.  

The group of Bohemian Waxwings shown above is only a small part of the whole group.  They were resting on a cold day,  having fed heavily on wild grapes along the river bank. 

Bohemian Waxwing

The Bohemian Waxwing (18 cm long) is a little bit larger than our Cedar Waxwing, a common summer resident.  They eat mostly fruit in winter but also eat insects and flower parts in summer.  They are very beautiful with their gray upperparts, pink-gray crest, black mask and chin, and gray underparts.  Their wings are black with a yellow or white line.  The tail is dark and has a yellow tip.  The cinnamon brown under the tail is a distinguishing feature, differentiating it from the Cedar Waxwing.  The red 'wax' on the wings is brilliant and a feature unique to waxwings.  It is really a bead-like tip to the secondary feather.

The Bohemian Waxwing has an extremely large range here in North America and gets its name from its nomadic life style.  Large flocks are normal and they range widely looking for suitable food and shelter.  We are lucky to have them here this winter.  I have seen several flocks ranging in size from 30 to over 100 in the Fredericton area.  Watch for them.  I often realize that they are in the area by hearing their chatter and then start looking.  I hope you can find them, too.

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