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Bohemian Waxwings: the Wanderers

February 9, 2013

I saw a small flock of Bohemian Waxwings yesterday feeding on some Mountain Ash trees. “Bohemian Waxwing” is certainly in the running for one of my favourite bird names. “Bohemian” apparently because these birds maintain feeding flocks even during the breeding season. At the time these birds were named, it was generally believed that people from Bohemia wandered about a great deal. An incubating Bohemian Waxwing may leave the nest to join a flock of waxwings flying overhead – something a territorial species would never do.    Bohemian Waxwings can be found in flocks over the entire season – even when nesting.  They feed primarily on fruit – a resource that may be so plentiful and well-distributed that waxwings do not need to set up a territory to defend that resource.  Feeding in flocks makes an individual less of a target for predators.

Bohemian Waxwing

Bohemian Waxwing

You can see the wax tips on the wings in this photo

You can see the wax tips on the wings in this photo

These birds have earned the name “Waxwing” because of the waxy red feathers on the wings.  If you look closely at the second photo in this post you can  see that the waxy feathers extend as the wing is stretched. What do these colourful feathers do? They are present only on older birds and  may help these older birds  identify  each other.   Older waxwings tend to nest with older birds. In many species, older and experienced birds are more likely to produce viable young.

early winter waxwing

early winter waxwing

Bohemian Waxwing feeding on Mountain Ash berries

Bohemian Waxwing feeding on Mountain Ash berries

Bohemian Waxwings nest further in the northern boreal forest and some move down as far south as the Kootenays and further south in winter – especially in years when food is scarce up north.

Bohemian Waxwings are very interesting birds – with a great name!

Bohemian Waxwing

Bohemian Waxwing

Photos and writings in this blog copyright Joanne A. Siderius 2013

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