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Aves, 42/4 | 2005 | 281-312

  Synthesis on the exceptional invasion of Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) in Europe in 2004-2005
Fouarge, J. & Vandevondele, Ph.

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Article summary

In 2004-2005, Europe experienced what is probably the largest and most important influx of Waxwings ever recorded. On the last invasion of note, in 1965-1966, the migration reached farther south but even so, during last winter, numbers were greater and more concentrated in particular areas. In Germany, for example, more than half a million birds were recorded. What are the reasons for this? In recent years, Swedish bird-watchers have recorded unusually high numbers of breeding pairs of Waxwings, especially during the Summer of 2004. This, together with the lack of natural food in the bird’s usual over-wintering countries, has driven the species south. October 2004 was by far the busiest month, showing increased activity by the Waxwing not only in Sweden and Norway but also in Denmark. Thousands of birds reached the United Kingdom, being recorded as far south as the Scilly Isles and Ouessant in France. In a disruption of their normal pattern of behaviour, ringed Norwegian birds were found to have travelled North-East to the Shetland Isles and Iceland. In November, the northern parts of Germany and Poland were invaded and by December thousands of birds were being sighted in the rest of Germany and the Czech Republic. At about the same time there were sightings in Switzerland, Northern Italy and Eastern France. In January and February the numbers in Switzerland and France increased further with birds spotted in Central France and as far West as the Atlantic Coast. In March the movement began to reverse with birds travelling north again. They were especially well recorded in Belgium and southern parts of Holland where, for the first part of the winter, they had been virtually non-existent. In that month alone, more than 20,000 birds were recorded in the low countries. In April, abnormally high numbers of birds were still present in most countries and in May there were sightings in the French Alps. There is still much to be learned about the Waxwing, especially with regard to its winter migration. Finally, a chapter will be devoted to Waxwing behaviours during influx period in a further article about invasion in Belgium.

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