Status: Winter visitor in variable numbers to urban areas, mainly to the north and east of Ireland. Occasional larger influxes.
Conservation Concern: Green-listed in Ireland. The European population has been evaluated as Secure.
Identification: Slightly larger than a Bullfinch. The body is a uniform light brown colour, with small black patches around the eye and on the chin. The vent is dark red in colour, while there is a thin white stripe on the wing. Just below this white stripe is a small group of red feathers similar to a blob of wax, which gives the Waxwing its name. It is also one of the very few birds likely to turn up in Irish gardens which has an obvious crest.
Similar Species: The only likely confusion species is the Cedar Waxwing, a very rare visitor from North America. Cedar Waxwing has a yellow vent, is slightly smaller and has different calls.
Call: A high-pitched, almost bell-like “sirrr”.
Diet: Feeds almost exclusively on berries during the winter, mainly those of Rowan and Pyracantha. Waxwings will also feed on apples that have been cut in half and speared on branches. In summer, Waxwings feed on insects caught in flight.
Breeding: Does not breed in Ireland. The breeding range extends from Finland eastwards across Siberia and into northernmost North America.
Wintering: Winters mainly in southern Scandinavia, with only a few sightings in Ireland every year. Every few years there is a larger invasion into Ireland when the food supplies in their normal winter range is exhausted prematurely. Normally seen in groups of five to fifty birds, but flocks of up to 400 Waxwings have been recorded in Ireland.
Where to See: Waxwings are best looked for at sites with a large number of berry bearing trees, such as Rowan.
Monitored by: BirdTrack.