Bohemian Waxwing

Bombycilla garrulus

The Bohemian Waxwing is a sleek, masked birds with unusual red, waxy deposits at the tips of their secondary feathers. They are grayish-brown with white and yellow wing-patches and yellow terminal tail-bands.

They have distinctive crested heads, black throats, and black masks lightly lined with white.

Their heads have a rufous tinge, and their undertail coverts are rufous.

Juvenile waxwings have most of the aforementioned field marks, but are mottled gray-brown and lack the feather-tips. The feather-tips seem to increase in number and size as the birds age.

Bohemian waxwing

The only bird that could be confused with Bohemian is a Cedar Waxwing, a far more common relative. Cedars are smaller and browner and have a yellow tinge underneath. They lack the rufous undertail coverts and white and yellow wing markings of this species.


Bohemian Waxwings breed in open areas and edges of boreal forests, often in places with sparse tree cover above brushy understory. During winter, they can be found in a variety of habitats, as long as there is fruit available.

They often congregate in towns with abundant plantings of fruit-bearing trees.


Flocks are common in all seasons, but nomadic winter flocks of hundreds of birds are the most common sighting in some locations. Bohemian Waxwings may be mixed in with more common Cedar Waxwing flocks during the winter.

They often perch atop trees to forage for fruits and berries. In summer, they fly out to catch aerial insects.


Bohemian Waxwings eat some insects, but are primarily fruit-eaters, a trait that dictates much of their behavior.

They eat almost nothing but fruit in the winter, relying on the berries of mountain ash, juniper, holly, and others.

They also forage on fruit crops and ornamental plantings.

Waxwings are susceptible to alcohol intoxication, and even death, from eating fermented fruit.

Like most songbirds, they feed insects to their young at first, but switch to feeding the young berries within a few days.


Bohemian waxwings

The Bohemian Waxwing does not hold breeding territories, probably because the fruits it eats are abundant, but available only for short periods. One consequence of this non-territorial lifestyle is that it has no true song. It does not need one to defend a territory.

Waxwings are monogamous, and both members of the pair help build the nest, which is usually on a horizontal branch of a spruce tree. The nest is a loose, open cup made of grass, twigs, and moss, lined with feathers and fine grass.

The female waxwings incubates 4 to 6 eggs for about 14 to 15 days. Both parents feed the young, which leave the nest at 14 to 18 days.

The young stay close to the nest and are fed by the parents for another few days. Family groups may stay together through the fall.


This nomadic and irruptive species wanders in search of food sources, rather than undertaking a typical migration. Food availability seems to be a more important predictor of winter presence than temperature or latitude.


Populations fluctuate considerably from year to year.

Cedar Waxwings

Bohemian Waxwings and other Backyard Birds

Native Trees for Food and Nesting

Native Shrubs Offer Fruits

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