Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bohemian Waxwing...Back in the Neighborhood

Bohemian (Bombycilla garrulus) and smaller numbers of cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedorum) descended on our yard to ingest chokecherry berries. These birds are reliably seen every fall through spring because of many accent plantings of fruit bearing trees and shrubs. A Eurasian cultivar, mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia), seems to be the commonest yard planting here in Montana urban landscapes and a favorite of waxwings. Here's a video of these birds in action on what I believe is a crabapple in February:

Identification is straightforward: bulky, gray chest/upperbody along with the burnt orange undertail coverts. Vocalizations are distinct. Mr. Swarth describes (1922, from Life Histories of North American Wagtails, Shrikes, Vireos, and their Allies; author-Cleveland Arthur Bent, reprint from Dover 1965) the voice of the Bohemian as a " a series of slightly separated notes". And yes, they are 'garrulus' calling most of the time from flight or day-time roost.

Invariably, because of their flock size and vocalizations, merlin (Falco columbarius) isn't far away.
Merlin (Falco columbarius)

Getting video and photographs is difficult at times because the birds are skittish. However, it is a minor challenge when considering how accessible this wildlife is...right out the front door of our home. Stake out some berry-laden plantings in or near your neighborhood this fall/winter and see what you discover.