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Waxwing by Jon Hawkins
© Waxwing by Jon Hawkins


Bombycilla garrulus

A starling-sized bird, the waxwing is one of Britain’s most exotic-looking birds with its large, orangey-pink crest.

© Waxwing by Jon Hawkins

The waxwing does not breed in the UK but is a winter visitor from Northern Europe and can be spotted in flocks on bushes full of berries – it’s not fussy where the bushes are and frequents towns, car parks and gardens. Waxwings prefer rowan and hawthorn berries, but can be enticed with hung-up apples. Sudden invasions of large numbers of waxwings (irruptions) occur when the berry crops fail in Northern Europe.

How to Identify

Unmistakeable: the waxwing has a pink crest and breast, a black mask and throat, grey rump, black tail tipped with bright yellow and yellow and white markings on its wings.

Where to Find

A rare winter visitor which can turn up anywhere, particularly in the north and east of the country.

How People Can Help

To encourage waxwings and other birds into the garden in winter, plant berry-producing bushes like hawthorn and put out different kinds of bird food. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there’s plenty of facts and tips to get you started. 

Did you know?

There are two other species of waxwing: the Japanese waxwing of eastern Asia and the Cedar waxwing of North America.

Key Facts

  • Length: 18cm
  • Wingspan: 34cm
  • Weight: 63g


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