Winter’s Enchantment: Waxwings Grace York with their Seasonal Arrival

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In the midst of winter’s cool embrace, a vibrant burst of color and song is set to grace the skies of York as the waxwings make their annual appearance. A representative from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust hints at the imminent arrival of these enchanting birds, heralding what promises to be a spectacular waxwing winter.

The waxwing, with its undeniably beautiful plumage, is a bird that captivates the hearts of birdwatchers and casual observers alike. Slightly smaller than a starling, the waxwing boasts a plump body adorned with silky feathers in soft hues of grey, brown, and apricot. Its unique features include a bright yellow band at the end of its tail, white and yellow dashes on the wings, and a black patch that elegantly sweeps back through the eye and up, reminiscent of perfect winged eyeliner. The pièce de résistance is its perfectly coiffed crest, giving it an air of regal elegance.

The waxwing’s name is derived from the glossy red tips on some of its wing feathers, resembling drops of sealing wax on a letter. Notably, these red tips develop as the bird ages, making them a marker of maturity. Young waxwings may not exhibit this characteristic until their second winter.

However, what truly sets the waxwing apart is its status as an ‘irruptive visitor.’ Unlike predictable migratory patterns, the waxwing’s arrival is a spectacle shrouded in uncertainty. Some winters may only reveal a handful of these majestic birds across the UK, while in other years, flocks may appear, numbering in the hundreds. Such influxes are known as irruptions, and the years they occur are dubbed ‘waxwing winters,’ a rare phenomenon that bird enthusiasts eagerly await.

The unpredictability of their appearance adds an element of excitement to waxwing watching. Their migratory patterns are intricately tied to their diet, which undergoes a seasonal shift. During the summer, waxwings feast on insects, but as the days grow darker, they switch to a fruit-based diet. Originating from the boreal forests of Northern Europe, they form flocks that traverse Fennoscandia in search of berry-bearing trees.

The key to a successful waxwing winter lies in the abundance of berries. If Scandinavia offers a plentiful supply, the waxwings may remain there. However, if berries are scarce, they embark on a journey across the North Sea, gracing the UK with their presence. The first sightings typically occur in the north and east, from the Northern Isles of Scotland to the Northumberland coast, before spreading southwards through Scotland and England.

Waxwings, with their discerning taste, often find urban areas enticing. Supermarket and shopping center car parks, adorned with ornamental trees, become veritable feasting grounds for these hungry birds. Intriguingly, not all berries hold the same allure for waxwings. The most sought-after are the red ones, including cotoneaster, viburnum, hawthorn, and especially rowan. As these red berry stocks diminish, waxwings may settle for orange, yellow, or even white berries, such as those found on mistletoe.

In flight, a flock of waxwings might be mistaken for starlings due to their plump silhouettes and short tails. However, their distinctive high-pitched trills, reminiscent of soft, jingling sleigh bells, set them apart, revealing their true identity.

This year, birdwatchers are buzzing with anticipation as reports suggest a particularly promising waxwing winter. Large flocks are expected along the Yorkshire coast, with sightings already reported at Spurn. Closer to the heart of York, waxwing flocks have been spotted at locations including York Sports Village, Bishopthorpe Road, and along the town walls.

As winter unfolds, consider taking a stroll through your neighbourhood, and keep a keen eye on trees laden with berries. You just might witness the magical sight of a flock of wondrous waxwings, adding a touch of natural splendour to the winter landscape.

Sam Allcock
Sam Allcock
Founder | Head of PR Sam is a valuable asset to News Write Ups with his extensive knowledge in online PR, social strategy, e-commerce, and news websites. He brings industry-leading expertise and has a track record of delivering successful campaigns for clients. With his skills and experience, Sam plays a key role in ensuring that News Write Ups stays ahead of the competition and continues to provide high-quality content and services to its readers and partners.

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