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Waxwing influx

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 15:48 UK time, Thursday, 28 October 2010

There have been loads of waxwing sightings across the UK this week and we wonder if you've been noticing them too.

Waxwings are slightly smaller than starlings and are most easily identified by the buff-red crests on top of their heads. They have a black throat and masked eyes and yellow, reddish and white streaks in their wings with a dipped yellow tail.

Waxwings arrive in the UK in late autumn and early winter from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia. In good breeding years like this year, the populations get too large for the food sources available, prompting early migrations of large numbers of waxwing.

Usually we see waxwings in the north of the UK and on eastern coasts. By the time waxwings arrive here other birds have usually stripped the berry bushes of their bounty. Then the birds have to move inland to find food. With widespread reports already coming in of flocks here in western England, the chances are you could see waxwings anywhere in the UK in the coming months. Check out the map of waxwing reports so far on our latest migration news update.

Flocks of waxwings can range in size from individual birds to many hundreds, but around 30 to 40 birds occurring in one place is most common. This year some of the biggest reports have been of 622 waxwings on the Isle of Lewis and a flock of 320 in Perth and Kinross. It's estimated that there are about 2,500 birds altogether in the UK at the moment, with most sightings being in the north and east.

Waxwings love berry-bearing shrubs, especially rowan trees so look out for them on your red berry bushes. You might first mistake them for starlings as Mike Wood reports that he did on the messageboard, so brush up on waxwing calls by listening to the recording on the RSPB Waxwing page.

So have you been seeing waxwings in your area? If so, how many? Or have you noticed changes in waxwing occurrences near you year on year?

We'd love to know your experiences. You can comment below, or as always please do share your photos of waxwings on the BBC Autumnwatch Flickr group BBC Winterwatch Flickr group.

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