A waxwing feeds on berries in London in January 2019, as strong northerly winds blew the rare birds off course from Scandinavia

A waxwing feeds on berries in London in January 2019, as strong northerly winds blew the rare birds off course from Scandinavia
Large numbers of waxwings are heading towards Britain in what could be the first major arrival for a decade.

Ornithologists say the berry-loving birds, which breed in coniferous forests from Scandinavia to eastern Russia, usually spend the winter further south.

However, this year there are signs of a poor crop of berries in Sweden and Finland. Exerts say that without the vital resource, waxwings have to move further afield, reaching the UK and other western European countries as they search for food.

The last time that happened was in 2015/16 - but Britain hasn't experienced a good 'Waxwing Winter' since 2012/13, according to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

Waxwings have been recorded moving west from their usual wintering range in recent days and the first bird arrived in the UK, on the island of Unst in the Shetlands, late last week.

The pinkish, starling-sized birds have swooping crests, orange, grey and lemon-yellow tails, and wing feathers with waxy red tips.

Rob Jaques, BTO Garden BirdWatch Supporter Development Officer, said: "A real waxwing winter, when many hundreds of these birds visit our shores, is a rare occurrence.

"It's exciting news that so many of these snazzy visitors are on their way to us right now. Their preference for red berries often brings waxwings into close proximity with humans.

"As well as rowan and hawthorn, the berries of shrubs and bushes often planted in urban areas also provide important sources of food.

"Gardens, industrial estates and supermarket car parks can all host spectacular gatherings of waxwings, with up to 300 in large flocks, so are worth checking as more of these amazing birds arrive."

He added: "Keep an eye on your garden, particularly if you've got a rowan tree or a cotoneaster, pyracantha or viburnum plant covered in red berries.

"If you do get lucky, let us know by taking part in the BTO GardenBirdwatch survey."