Bohemian Waxwing Irruption Across the USA

Cedar Waxwing

The Cedar Waxwing is a berry eating bird found throughout the USA and Canada.  Traveling in flocks these beautiful brownish yellow birds can be found in urban and rural habitats, descending upon berry trees and gorging themselves to the point where they can barely fly.

The Cedar Waxwing has a much less common cousin . . . the Bohemian Waxwing.  The Bohemian is grayish red, travels in enormous flocks and normal resides in Canada with occasional winter visits to the northern USA.  If we are lucky, Ingrid and I will happen upon Bohemians once a year,  I’ve had pretty good luck in a Crabapple Garden at the University of Maine’s Orono Campus.

But every once in a while, the mountain ash berries that the Bohemian Waxwings rely upon to get them through the long Canadian winters do not materialize.  When this happens, the birds will flood south into the United States.  This is called an “irruption year.”   For instance, in 1908 a single flock, 200-300 foot wide, was seen taking 2+ minutes to pass overhead.

This winter has been an irruption year with Bohemian Waxwings moving across the northern USA in search of food.  In the west large flocks have taken up residence in the Denver and Salt Lake City area . . . with sightings as far south as Las Vegas and Albuquerque.

Today, on a rural dirt road I came upon a flock of Bohemians.  I watched and photographed them for about ten minutes until a Cooper’s Hawk went after them for a meal.  

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