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'A Waxwing Winter': Soaring numbers of rare bird species

Photo: Les Williams

An unusual species of bird is enjoying a winter vacation here in the UK, according to the RSPB charity.

Waxwings are a small starling-sized bird with a prominent crest and colourful markings. They only travel here from Siberia and northern Scandinavia when they experience a particularly harsh winter or if there is a shortage of food.

Waxwings mostly feed on fruit. Credit: Les Williams

So many have been spotted this year, the RSPB has described it as a ‘Waxwing Winter’.

They're moving across the country from east to west and they're devouring trees full of berries .... Only ever 3 or 4 years do these birds come in large numbers.

– JAMIE WYVER, RSPB
Waxwings are characterised by soft silky plumage. Credit: Les Williams

The wildlife conversation charity hopes the rare winter visitor will encourage more people to take part in its annual Big Birdwatch, the world’s biggest wildlife survey.

Children across the country have already been getting involved in the Big Schools' Birdwatch. Others can join in on the Big Garden Birdwatch Weekend - 28 - 30 January. Those taking part are asked to spend an hour counting the birds in their garden or local green space.

Credit: Les Williams

The survey has been running for more than 35 years and helps the RSPB to monitor bird populations. Last year, more than 8 million birds were spotted and the most commonly sighted species was the house sparrow.

For more information, visit the RSPB's website.