11 October 2012


The waxwings are a group of passerine birds characterized by soft silky plumage. Their fluffy feathers almost look like fur.

Waxwing bird, drawing by wildlife artist Lukasz Bednarz

Waxwings are sleek, masked birds with unusual red, waxy deposits at the tips of their secondary feathers. Okay! Now that explains their name in English.

Waxwings are very vocal birds: jaseur (chattering) in French!

Bombycilla, their genus name, is a French ornithologist's attempt at Neo-Latin for silktail, from Latin bombyx (silk / silk moth) and scientific Latin cilla (tail).

The French ornithologist was Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot (1748–1831).

Vieillot described a large number of birds for the first time, especially those he encountered during the time he spent in the West Indies and North America, and 26 genera established by him are still in use.

He was one of the first ornithologists to study changes in plumage. 

He wrote and published books on birds, with illustrations by his friend Jean Baptiste Audebert

AUDEBERT, JB / VIEILLOT, LJP - Le Promerops Rayé. Pl. 7, published in Paris, 1800–1802

Waxwings are small fruits aficionados. Birds and berries are both very photogenic and their reunion creates a stunning color palette, especially in winter time, with the beautiful color (gray-purple-grey) of the naked tree branches.

Hope you'll enjoy these photos of waxwings picking snowy berries by Russian photographer Irina Makushina.

 © Irina Makushina

  © Irina Makushina

  © Irina Makushina

  © Irina Makushina

  © Irina Makushina

Bohemian Waxwings Eating Apples in Maine

Waxwing bird, drawing by wildlife biologist and science illustrator Kevina Vulinec