Adult. Photo: Jeannine St. Amour/Audubon Photography Awards

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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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.
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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 Will Reshape the Range of the Bohemian Waxwing

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Bohemian Waxwing

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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