Karl Overman: Birds and more


This species is found around the northern hemisphere in boreal forests, being one of the birds that Linnaeus first described.  In North American as a breeding bird it is found in the northwest corner of the continent east to the Hudson Bay lowlands of northernmost Ontario where it is rare as a breeder.  In Michigan it has had ups and downs in abundance as a winter visitor. In the colder climes of say from the 1880s to the 1920s, there were a good number of reports.  Most, as has always been the case, from the Upper Peninsula  but the largest number reported was of 1000 birds  near Waterloo in Jackson County on February 19, 1920 by Walter Koelz.  N.A. Woods, Birds of Michigan 353 (1951). From 1923 through the time covered in Woods book (1941) there were no reports of the species in southern Michigan. Id.  In Van Tyne’s Birds of Michigan (1959) he states there were only two records of the species in the southern part of Michigan between 1941 and 1959: one in Dearborn, Wayne County from January 8-11, 1945  by Mrs. A.D. Miller and two in Southfield, Oakland County by N.T. Kelly, R. Eriksson and D. French on January 19, 1958.  Id. at 43.  The 1960s did little to change the pattern of relatively few records from Michigan, especially southern areas. There is a reference to specimen being collected in Livingston County in the early 1960s (Wolf, 1962 Jack Pine Warbler 40:130). One Bohemian was banded Nov 15, 1963  at Port Huron, St.Clair Co. (Frederick Ludwig JPW 42:295 1964).

When I first started seriously birding Michigan on a statewide basis in the early 1970s, Bohemian Waxwing was a really tough bird to come by but the tide had turned for that species once again in small ways at first with increased records in the 1970s and even more records in the 1980s and beyond. This seems counter intuitive in an era of so-called Global Warming. when northern birds should be decreasing and southern species increasing.  In most winters in the last couple of decades, you have a good chance of finding Bohemian Waxwings in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in late fall and winter such as the birds photographed below in Mackinac Couty.  Finding them in the southern Lower Peninsula is still a challenge in most years.  The tip of the Thumb is your best bet but even there it is not guaranteed every winter. That is where the Grindstone City bird was photographed while I was with Paul Berrigan on December 4, 2014. 

Bohemian Waxwing (Bombyscilla garrulus)

Modified March 7, 2022