Bandit birds are back for Christmas

Jamie Wyver

Friday 18 November 2016

Waxwings, birds with a call that sounds like sleigh bells and a tendency for festive over-indulgence, have arrived in the UK in their hundreds.

These exotic-looking visitors with black bandit masks fly from the forests of north east Europe in winter. In some years large numbers arrive on the east coast in search of their favourite food, red berries. These events are known as "irruptions" and occur in years when there are too many waxwings and not enough berries.

There seems to be a waxwing winter this year with hundreds of the birds being seen across the country. The RSPB is encouraging everyone to make the most of this chance to see one of our most striking feathered visitors.

Waxwings are reddish-brown birds around the size of starlings, and are easily identified by their impressive crests and the sealing-wax red wingtips from which they get their name. They typically descend on rowan trees or hawthorn bushes in supermarket car parks, trilling to one another with their "sleigh bell" like calls.

RSPB waxwing enthusiast Jamie Wyver said:"If you see a flock of birds hungrily working their way through a tree full of berries take a closer look: you may be lucky enough to see these beautiful visitors from the far north. Waxwings aren't shy and are generally comfortable around people, so you can usually get amazing views of them as they feed."

Hungry waxwings will travel long distances in search of food. When they find a suitable tree or bush they gorge themselves on the fruit. If the berries have become fermented this can cause them to become "drunk". Fortunately waxwings have evolved to be able to cope with this and can recover quickly, apparently without a hangover.

Growing berry bushes and fruit trees in your garden may one day attract waxwings, if you're very lucky, but they'll be great for many other birds and animals too. Find out more about giving nature a home in your garden: rspb.org.uk/homes

Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018

Tagged with: Country: UK Topic: Giving Nature a Home