The bohemian waxwing got its name not only for the red waxy tips on mature feathers, but also for its bohemian behavior. These birds are very nomadic when following food sources, and their large flocking instinct leads to a communal type of protection and sharing of food. With their bold colors and sleek appearance, bohemian waxwings are a favorite on any birder’s life list.
- Bill: Thick, dark
- Size: 8 inches long with 13-14-inch wingspan, crested head
- Colors: Gray, rust, black, yellow, red, white
- Markings: Both genders have a narrow black face mask with a thin lower white border. The chin is black, and there is a rusty wash to the forehead, cheeks and upper part of the gray chest. The gray body may show a faint brown or rusty wash on the head and back. The lower abdomen is whitish, contrasting sharply with rich rusty undertail coverts. The gray wings have white markings and red and yellow borders along dark tips. The tail is gray to black with a broad bright yellow terminal band.
Berries, fruit, insects, sap
Habitat and Migration:
Bohemian waxwings prefer boreal or mixed coniferous and deciduous forests and bogs. Their nesting range is northwestern Canada through Alaska, while in the winter they will move into the northwestern United States, from eastern Washington and Oregon to as far south as northern Nevada, Utah and Colorado and as far east as northern Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan. Bohemian waxwings’ range also occupies similar habitats in northern Eurasia. These birds will irrupt much further south when food sources in their traditional range are limited.
The bohemian waxwing is a very vocal bird, and its most familiar call is a high, rapid buzzing trill of sharp notes. Because these birds are highly nomadic, they do not have common songs to defend territories.
These are bold birds that gather in very large winter flocks, and can even be found in small family flocks during the nesting season. Occasionally, vagrant bohemian waxwings can be found in flocks of cedar waxwings, particularly where the two birds’ ranges overlap. When feeding, these birds will stay in one area with an abundant food source until that food is stripped, which may not take long with large flocks.
Bohemian waxwings are monogamous birds, and a mated pair will raise one brood of 2-5 eggs annually. The female parent incubates the eggs for 14-15 days, and both parents will care for the altricial young for 14-18 days until the young birds are ready to leave the nest.
Attracting Bohemian Waxwings:
These bold birds will readily come to feeders with berries, apples or raisins. Birders who plant fruit-bearing trees such as crabapple and juniper can also attract these birds when other food sources have disappeared. Bohemian waxwings will also visit birdbaths, particularly in winter.