Birds - Bohemian Waxwing
( Originally Published 1904 )
(Ampelis garrulus) Waxwing family
Called also : BLACK-THROATED WAXWING ; LAPLAND
WAXWING ; SILKTAIL
Length—8 to 9.5 inches. A little smaller than the robin.
Male and Female—General color drab, with faint brownish wash above, shading into lighter gray below. Crest conspicuous, being nearly an inch and a half in length; rufous at the base, shading into light gray above. Velvety-black forehead, chin, and line through the eye. Wings grayish brown, with very dark quills, which have two white bars ; the bar at the edge of the upper wing coverts being tipped with red sealing-waxlike points, that give the bird its name. A few wing feathers tipped with yellow on outer edge. Tail quills dark brown, with yellow band across the end, and faint red streaks on upper and inner sides.
Range—Northern United States and British America. Most common in Canada and northern Mississippi region.
Migrations—Very irregular winter visitor.
When Charles Bonaparte, Prince of Canino, who was the first to count this common waxwing of Europe and Asia among the birds of North America, published an account of it in his "Synopsis," it was considered a very rare bird indeed. It may be these wax-wings have greatly increased, but however uncommon they may still be considered, certainly no one who had ever seen a flock containing more than a thousand of them, resting on the trees of a lawn within sight of New York City, as the writer has done, could be expected to consider the birds " very rare."
The Bohemian waxwing, like the only other member of the family that ever visits us, the cedar-bird, is a roving gipsy. In Germany they say seven years must elapse between its visitations, which the superstitious old cronies are wont to associate with woful stories of pestilence just such tales as are resurrected from the depths of morbid memories here when a comet reappears or the seven-year locust ascends from the ground.
The goings and comings of these birds are certainly most erratic and infrequent; nevertheless, when hunger drives them from the far north to feast upon the juniper and other winter berries of our Northern States, they come in enormous flocks, making up in quantity what they lack in regularity of visits and evenness of distribution.
Surely no bird has less right to be associated with evil than this mild waxwing. It seems the very incarnation of peace and harmony. Part of a flock that has lodged in a tree will sit almost motionless for hours and whisper in softly hissed twitterings, very much as a company of Quaker ladies, similarly dressed, might sit at yearly meeting. Exquisitely clothed in silky-gray feathers that no berry juice. is ever permitted to stain, they are dainty, gentle, aristocratic-looking birds, a trifle heavy and indolent, perhaps, when walking on the ground or perching; but as they fly in compact squads just above the tree-tops their flight is exceedingly swift and graceful.