Bird GuideWaxwingsBohemian Waxwing

At a Glance

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.
Category
Perching Birds, Waxwings
Conservation
Low Concern
Habitat
Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets, Tundra and Boreal Habitats, Urban and Suburban Habitats
Region
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Western Canada
Behavior
Direct Flight, Flap/Glide
Population
5.000.000

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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.

Description

7 1/2 -8 1/2" (19-22 cm). Like Cedar Waxwing (with crest and yellow tail tip) but larger and grayer, with chestnut undertail coverts, yellow and white pattern in wings. Streaky juvenile differs from young Cedar by color of undertail coverts.
Size
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Color
Black, Gray, Red, Tan, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Pointed
Tail Shape
Rounded, Short, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

High-pitched, lisping seeee, harsher and more grating than call of Cedar Waxwing.
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat
Call Type
Buzz, Hi, Trill, Whistle

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.

Behavior

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.

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.

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.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Breeding population is impossible to census, but numbers reaching some southerly areas in winter seem to have increased in recent years.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Bohemian Waxwing. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

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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