Bohemian Waxwings

Waxwings
Waxwings

How many Bohemian Waxwings can you count in this tree? (The answer in 48 hours) And can you find and identify the mystery bird?

On my way to the Cities last week, I swung through Duluth to look for the Black-headed Grosbeak that had been visiting a feeder there. My second try for the Grosbeak was unsuccessful, but on the way, I found this tree that was plum full of a mixed flock of Bohemian Waxwings AND Cedar Waxwings.

Bohemian Waxwing

Bohemian Waxwing

A big Mountain Ash tree was full of berries and the birds were actively feeding. It was on Superior Street at about 52nd and the traffic on the street was relatively heavy. Every time a loud truck would go by, all the birds would spook and fly up to the bare tree that was further back. Then slowly they would filter back down to the Mountain Ash and continue their feast.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

These two Waxwing species usually don’t hang out together. Cedar Waxwings should have migrated south by now. But this year with the recent mild weather and the record crops being produced by Mountain Ash and Apple trees, they evidently have decided it’s not worth it to migrate. Whereas the Bohemian Waxwing migrates south out of Canada to winter in Minnesota. Another one of our “specialties”, birds that choose to winter in northern Minnesota, I guess it’s a lot warmer here than up north on the tundra.

Bohemian Waxwing

Bohemian Waxwing

Sorry to just show the back side of this bird, but this view is the easiest way to tell the difference between the two species of Waxwing. The Bohemian will have rufous under the tail. The juvenile Bohemian will also have the rufous undertail coverts. Bohemians are larger than Cedars by 1 inch, although even with seeing the two birds side by side, it was hard for me to see the difference in size. Bohemians are a grayer color overall compared to the light warm brown and yellow hues of the Cedar Waxwing and there is more white in the wing of the Bohemian. Besides the rufous under the tail of the Bohemian, there is rufous on the forehead and cheeks. Both birds have the distinctive bright red coloring on the tips of the secondary wing feathers which resembles sealing wax and that is where they get their name. Both birds also have yellow at the tip of their tails.
Now, no one really knows how the name Bohemian Waxwing came about. Cedar Waxwings get their name from their infinity to Cedar trees and they eat the fruit from those trees. But Bohemian Waxwings neither breed nor winter near Bohemia, which is the modern day Czech Republic. The Bohemian Waxwing is the only Waxwing to occur in Europe and in England they used to be known simply as Silk Tails, which is what their scientific name, Bombycilla, refers to.
Looking up the word Bohemian on Dictionary.com there are several definitions:
1. a native or inhabitant of Bohemia.
2.(usually lowercase) a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.
3. the Czech language
4. a Gypsy
5. of or pertaining to Bohemia, its people or their language.
6. pertaining to or characteristic of the unconventional life of a bohemian.
7. living a wandering or vagabond life, as a Gypsy.
Bohemian Waxwings are probably named after the wandering life they lead in the winter. They will gather into flocks in the fall and look for fruit bearing trees. Once they find a food supply they will stay at that location until all the fruit is stripped then move on to another location.
which Waxwing?

which Waxwing?

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1 Response to Bohemian Waxwings

  1. Andrew Pelt says:

    I think that that was really interesting. Good post!

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