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The Sound Of Silver

  • Sun 8th Nov, 2020

Its early November in North Yorkshire and my ears are on high alert every time I step outside the house. I’m listening for a delicate silvery trill, the unmistakable call of a Bohemian Waxwing. These magical birds must be in everybody’s top ten of European birds. As a very good friend of mine once wrote ‘to be tired of Waxwings is to be tired of life’.

Bohemian Waxwing North Yorkshire © Steve RaceBohemian Waxwing North Yorkshire © Steve Race

Waxwings have it all; they nest in the vast wild forests of Scandinavia and Russia and they belong to a unique family of birds with only one species in Europe. Their beautiful plumage includes a flamboyant crest and delicate waxy red and yellow wing markings like small jewels. They flock in gregarious groups often visiting urban areas looking out for exotic berries, and best of all they sound like silver! Take a listen Here.

Bohemian Waxwing North Yorkshire © Steve RaceBohemian Waxwing North Yorkshire © Steve Race

However, they are probably most famous for getting drunk on fermented berries. In one area of Canada a local bird hospital receives drunk Waxwings every autumn. They are given time to sober up in special waxwing hangover boxes, see the video Here. Young birds appear to be more susceptible as they don’t have the experience to avoid the older berries.

Bohemian Waxwing at Spurn © Jo RuthBohemian Waxwing at Spurn © Jo Ruth

Waxwings arrive in the UK from the east every autumn but we never know how many will grace our shores. When they make landfall the first berry bushes are often targeted for a quick meal. Local artist Jo Ruth painted this scene of Waxwings on Sea Buckthorn seen at Spurn Bird National Nature Reserve, inspired by the Waxwing’s punk hair styles, the coastal dunes and the startling orange fruit.

One of the first flocks to arrive this autumn made landfall in Norfolk on the 13th October. Since that date only small numbers have been seen in the UK with most sightings in north-east Scotland. Yesterday on the 7th November news arrived of one heard in Bishopthorpe near York, this was one of our first reports and definitely made my ears go into overdrive!
Richard Baines

Yorkshire Coast Nature