Photo: Claude Nadeau/Vireo

Bohemian Waxwing

Bombycilla garrulus

During summer in Alaska and western Canada, scattered Bohemian Waxwings may be seen perching on spruce tops and flying out to catch insects in mid-air. In winter these same birds become sociable nomads, with large flocks wandering the northwest in search of berries. Sometimes they stray as far east as New England, but in most areas their numbers are quite variable from year to year (the name "Bohemian" reflects their unconventional and seemingly carefree lifestyle). However, in some cities in the prairie provinces of Canada, Bohemians can be found by the thousands every winter, no doubt lured by the plantings of mountain-ash and other fruiting trees.
Conservation status Breeding population is impossible to census, but numbers reaching some southerly areas in winter seem to have increased in recent years.
Family Waxwings
Habitat In summer, boreal forests, muskeg; in winter, widespread, including towns. Breeds in far northern forest in open areas, around edges of burns or bogs, or in places with scattered taller trees above brushy understory. Winters in wooded semi-open country where food is available; often concentrates in towns, where plantings of fruiting trees provide abundant berries.
During summer in Alaska and western Canada, scattered Bohemian Waxwings may be seen perching on spruce tops and flying out to catch insects in mid-air. In winter these same birds become sociable nomads, with large flocks wandering the northwest in search of berries. Sometimes they stray as far east as New England, but in most areas their numbers are quite variable from year to year (the name "Bohemian" reflects their unconventional and seemingly carefree lifestyle). However, in some cities in the prairie provinces of Canada, Bohemians can be found by the thousands every winter, no doubt lured by the plantings of mountain-ash and other fruiting trees.
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  • adult
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Takes insects by watching from high perch, then flying out to catch them in mid-air. Also forages in trees. Takes berries while perched or hovering. Except when nesting, almost always forages in flocks.


Eggs

4-6, sometimes fewer. Pale bluish gray, heavily dotted with black, especially toward larger end. Incubation is probably by female only, about 14-15 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 14-18 days after hatching, continue to associate with parents for some time thereafter, perhaps remaining with them through first fall and winter migration.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 14-18 days after hatching, continue to associate with parents for some time thereafter, perhaps remaining with them through first fall and winter migration.

Diet

Mainly insects and berries. Feeds mostly on insects in summer, especially flying insects. Eats more berries and fruits as they become available, and these make up most of winter diet; important are berries of mountain-ash and junipers, also many others. Also eats seeds of birch and other trees, and will drink oozing sap.


Nesting

Courtship displays may include both birds perching close together with body feathers puffed out; male passes berry, flower, or other item to female. Nest: Placed on horizontal branch of tree, often spruce, usually 6-20' above the ground, sometimes much higher. Nest (built by both sexes) is an open cup of twigs, grass, and moss, lined with soft materials such as fine grass and feathers.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Movements highly variable. In some winters, big flights extend as far east and south as New England, while in other years they are almost absent there. Similarly irregular south of Canada in the west.

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Migration

Movements highly variable. In some winters, big flights extend as far east and south as New England, while in other years they are almost absent there. Similarly irregular south of Canada in the west.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
High-pitched, lisping seeee, harsher and more grating than call of Cedar Waxwing.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Waxwings Perching Birds

Bohemian Waxwing

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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