Britain poised for big Waxwing winter


Britain looks set to enjoy its biggest 'Waxwing winter' for at least a decade, with flocks of more than 500 already being recorded.

The popular species hasn't irrupted into Britain since 2016-2017 – and even then, big flocks were largely restricted to northern England and Scotland. Prior to that, the last truly major irruption was as long ago as winter 2012-13.

Waxwings in North Shields, Northumberland, on 5 November 2023 (Alan Jack).

However, the signs of a significant arrival have been showing since early October, when good numbers began to appear in the Northern Isles. Since then, the irruption has gained significant momentum – flocks in excess of 500 birds have been recorded in Elgin, Moray, and Inverness, Highland, during the first week of November, while birds have been encountered as far south-west as South Wales, south-west England and western Ireland. The largest group seen in England so far has been 60 in North Yorkshire, with east-coast sightings as far south as Essex.

It remains to be seen how the influx will play out across Britain and Ireland, but the signs so far suggest that it'll be the best Waxwing winter for several years. Almost 1,500 Waxwing reports have made it onto BirdGuides since the beginning of October – and it seems likely many more are to come.

You can find out where you can see Waxwings in your local area at www.birdguides.com/sightings or via the BirdGuides app. New users are entitled to a one-month free trial.

A map of Waxwing sightings on BirdGuides since 1 October 2023, demonstrating the high numbers at large in Britain and Ireland (BirdGuides.com)