WANDERING WAXWINGS (2019)
- Waxwings from Europe recovered in Asia
- Even from the Russian Far East!
- With controls from - yes - Bohemia
Figure 1. Bohemian Waxwing, 1st cy male, 2 November 2010, Meijendel, Wassenaar, the Netherlands (note this individual was not recovered in Asia; illustration only)
An autumn and winter invasion of Bohemian Waxwings in NW Europe usually raises the pulse of birders and photographers alike. Waxwings are irruptive, so in some years we get good numbers, whereas in others they are virtually absent. By ringing recoveries we know that these birds can cover large distances. This short article summarizes records of birds ringed in Europe and recovered in Asia - some of them very far away!
I used EURING data from all passerines ringed in Europe and recovered in Asia (up till 2017). Data of birds ringed in Asia and recovered in Europe does not belong to the European ringing schemes but the Asian ones and are therefore not included. I excluded birds ringed in European Russia that were recovered in Asiatic Russia. In Russia I plotted the recoveries on and "administrative level" (ie oblast, krai or republic) and not on the exact sites, with the exception of the two easternmost recoveries.
Just across the border... or not?
Birds ringed in Finland (2) and Sweden were recovered in the now popular birding destination of Georgia - one even fairly close to Batumi. But whether Georgia is W Asia or SE Europe... well, the word is still out there! The same can be said about the recovery just across the border in Azerbaijan, also from Finland (Figure 2). These recoveries at least show that Waxwings cover large distances (all around 2400-3000 km).
Figure 2. Bohemian Waxwing recoveries in the Caucasus. Red dots indicate ringing sites, blue dots show recovery sites.
From the European part of Russia (west of the Urals), I have 70+ recoveries, ranging from the north, right across the Urals (so very close to Asiatic Russia) to the south. That rises expectations: how far can they reach?
Far! I found three controls from Kazakhstan (Figure 3). One originated from... Bohemia!
Figure 3. Bohemian Waxwing recoveries in Kazakhstan. Red dots indicate ringing sites, blue dots show recovery sites
But it's Russia where the magic happens. There are no less than 20 (!) controls from Asian parts of the country (Figure 4). None were controlled during the same season they were ringed. The Sverdlovsk Oblast - on the Asian side of the border between the two continents - has no less than 7 controls, followed by 3 from the neighbouring Tyumen Oblast. But by far the most spectacular are the two reports from the Russian Far East! Two birds were recovered during the breeding season, one in the Sverdlovsk Oblast (in May; Hungarian bird) and one in Krasnoyarsk Krai (June; Finnish bird).
Figure 4. Bohemian Waxwing recoveries from Asiatic Russia. Red dots indicate ringing sites, blue dots show recovery sites (on oblast/krai/republic level)
Russian Far East
The details of the recoveries from the Russian Far East:
1 Gdansk G 80293 was ringed in the Rivine Oblast, Ukraine 28 March 1937 and recovered near Chita, Zabaykalsky Krai (Transbaikal), Russia on 1 december 1937 (6.125 km, 248 days).
2 Budapest 166541 was ringed in Pest, Hungary on 19 December 1967 and recovered near Malya Zazanka, Amurskaya Oblast (Amur), Russia on 25 October 1968 (7.883 km, 301 days).
All recoveries from Asiatic Russia and Kazakhstan can be found in Table 1 (Excel download)
So Waxwings seem to travel between the continents at least on a fairly regular basis, and they can certainly wander off far, very far into Asia - though apparently they do not so within the same migration season.
I am grateful to the European Union for Bird Ringing (EURING) which made the recovery data available through the EURING Data Bank and to the many ringers and ringing scheme staff who have gathered and prepared the data. Special thanks go to Dorian Moss. The Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish ringing schemes were very helpful.
I'd be very interested to learn about Waxwings ringed in Asia and controlled in Europe (none are mentioned the Dutch, Belgian and Norwegian online atlases, and none were reported by the helpful Danish, Swedish and Finnish ringing schemes).