Saturday, 2 February 2013

Bohemian Waxwing

order : Passeriformes      Genus & Species : Bombycillidae     Family : Bombycilla garrulus

The Bohemian waxwing usually spends winter in northern forests, but when facing starvation it wanders long distances, never knowing where it will find its next meal. The elegantly crested Bohemian waxwing is easily identified by the loud, rattling noise made by its wing appendages during takeoff and landing. They breeds in sub-Arctic regions of northern Europe, Siberia, Alaska and western Canada; usually migrates south of its breeding range in autumn. 

Habitat : The Bohemian waxwing breeds in largely coniferous taiga forests that span the sub-Arctic, south of the treeless tundra. These dense woods are dominated by pine and spruce, which tower over deciduous birch and aspen. The largest populations live in the lowlands, with others on the slopes of upland valleys. In autumn, the bird leaves the conifer forests and moves south of its breeding area where rowan, or mountain ash, is numerous. However, when circumstances force the waxwing to make long migrations, its habitat changes far more dramatically. A bird accustomed to wild surroundings adapts readily to life among city parks, town gardens or wherever there are berry-bearing trees. 
Food & Feeding : From autumn to spring, the Bohemian waxwing eats the berries of conifer trees and shrubs, especially mountain ash. It eats buds, flowers, young shoots, leaves and even tree sap in early spring, after the berry season has finished and before the emergence of insects. In the brief summer, which is also its breeding season, the waxwing exists mostly on mosquitoes and midges. It dashes out from treetops to snap them up in midair before returning to the same perch. Sometimes it feeds by zigzagging through an insect swarm. 
Behavior : The Bohemian waxwing, like other birds that breed in the Arctic, has a boom-or-bust lifecycle. Every 10 years or so, when its population exceeds the limited winter food supply, the risk of starvation forces the waxwing to flee its home in a large-scale migration, known as an irruption. An irruption occurred in January 1996, when 10,000 waxwings invaded Britain. In the U.S., New England felt this same influx with hundreds showing up in areas where they had not been seen before. Many waxwings die of starvation or exhaustion in irruption years. When survivors return to their breeding grounds, the natural habitat is rejuvenated and can support the reduced numbers.The population increases until the next winter food crisis. The waxwing has a peaceable nature and spends most of its life in flocks. Its voice is feeble, consisting of a quiet trill, given in flight. 
Breeding : When the breeding season starts in May, the male looks for a mate. He courts a female by passing her a “gift” in his bill. It may be a berry, insect, ant pupa or even an inedible piece of bark. A receptive female receives the gift and holds it in her bill for a few seconds before returning it to her suitor.The male also raises his crest and puffs up his rump and belly feathers to make himself look larger and almost spherical. In addition, he chases the female in flight. Stunted pines with hanging lichen are favorite nest sites.The nest is an open cup made from a base of twigs, lined with grass, reindeer moss and lichens. The male feeds his mate insects as she incubates the bluish, speckled eggs.The young are fed by both adults on regurgitated insects and fledge after two weeks. 

Bill : The waxwing has a short, stubby bill and a wide mouth, enabling it to swallow most berries whole. 
Crest : The adult male’s head plumes normally sweep upwards and reach a length of 2–3".The female’s head plumes are a little shorter and sweep backward. 
Wings : The species gets its name from the red, waxlike appendages that extend from the tips of the inner wing feathers. 
Tail : The short, black tail has a bold yellow tip. Some birds have waxy red tips on their tail as well as on their wings. 
Juvenile : The young waxwing has a shorter crest and is drabber than its parents. It lacks the black bib, and the few red tips on its wings are very small. 

Weight : 1.75–2.8 oz.
Length : 8"
Wingspan : 13-14"
Sexual Maturity : 1-2 years
Breeding Season : May-June 

In the Netherlands, where it is still known as “pest bird,” people believed the waxwing brought with it war, pestilence and famine.

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