A small number of waxwings have made a dramatic entrance to the South East of England, and they are causing quite a stir among local wildlife lovers in Totton. These colourful winter visitors have flown all the way from Northern Europe, and they spend their time here feasting on the UK’s bounty of winter berries.
Often considered one of Britain’s most exotic-looking birds, their orangey-pink crest and bright markings place them high up on many local bird-watchers’ lists. They are an uncommon winter visitor in Hampshire, usually seen in more northern and eastern parts of the UK.
However, in the past week a group of birds have been spotted feeding in bushes and trees in a supermarket car park Totton. Their surprise arrival has attracted bird-watchers from near and far, and bewitched passers-by with their exotic appearance.
Waxwings are not fussy about where their berry laden bushes are, and will frequent towns, car parks and gardens. Waxwings prefer Rowan and Hawthorn berries, but can be enticed with apples. In previous years, they arrived at Whiteley shopping centre, and they have also been spotted in Hedge End and Southampton.
Waxwings’ name comes from bright red tips on some of their wing feathers, which look like drops of red wax that used to be used on envelopes and letters. As a waxwing gets older, the number and size of its “wax tips” increases. Waxwings are very sociable birds, and while feeding they are highly cooperative, sharing berries between others in the flock. Males and females will pass berries back and forth, which builds a bond during courtship.
Dave Rumble, Assistant Director at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said: “Waxwings are among our most eye-catching and colourful birds, and a sight not to be missed. It’s especially exciting for them to make an appearance in Hampshire. They’ll be stocking up on the berries over the coming weeks, before making the long journey back to Scandinavia, where they’ll breed in the spring. Look out for their orange-peach colouring, black eye mask, and yellow tipped tail.”