Five birds certainly ruffling some feathers

A SMALL group of rather unusual birds are causing a stir among local birders and shoppers alike.

Waxwings have bright red tips on their feathers
Waxwings have bright red tips on their feathers

Waxwings are colourful winter visitors to the UK from northern Europe and spend their months here feeding in flocks on trees and bushes full of berries and fruit.

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 parts of the UK.

However in the past few days a group of five birds have been spotted feeding in trees above visitors’ heads.

Their surprising arrival has attracted scores of bird-watchers from near and far and bewitched shoppers with their incredibly exotic appearance.

Waxwings’ name comes from the 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 also 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, so this is absolutely a sight that is not to be missed.

‘It’s especially exciting for them to make an appearance in Hampshire.

‘They will be stocking up on the berries over the coming weeks, before making the long journey back to Scandinavia, where they will breed throughout the spring months.

‘Look out for their orange-peach colouring, black eye mask, and yellow tipped tail.

‘It just goes to show how easy it is to have wildlife encounters even in what seems like the most unlikely of places.’

If you are looking to spot the waxwings, the best place to go at the moment is the Whiteley Shopping Centre in Fareham – they seem to have set up shop there, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Neil Carter, Whiteley Centre Manager said ‘It’s been fabulous to see such wonderful birds at Whiteley, and to see the level of interest generated.

‘We hope that they will enjoy the fruits of our trees, planted when the centre was redeveloped in 2013, and we wish them all the best on their upcoming journey to Scandinavia.’