Friday, November 9, 2012

Chicago Botanical Gardens Bohemian Waxwing 11/9/12

Hi all,

As I posted about yesterday, I was going to look for a Bohemian Waxwing at the Chicago Botanical Gardens today. I went with my mom (Lynne Remington) and Aaron Gyllenhaal. Aaron needed this bird for his Illinois state list (for bird 347), so it was extra important we find it today. The latest report we read stated that it was last seen at around 10:00 AM near the Sensory Garden, making that the first place we visited. We began walking towards the Garden, but saw a small flock of Goldfinches and while briefly looking at it, Aaron found a Common Redpoll. I was pleased to see it, as it was tinged a rosy color, which I had never seen before. I snapped a few shots, but soon rushed away as we had our eyes on the Waxwing.

We arrived at the Sensory Garden at around 12:15, and were told by the congregation of birders that it had not been seen since about 10:00. They said that it seemed to favor the berry bushes in front of them, and that they were going to wait for it to come back. Aaron and I did not want to wait as we didn't have that long to find it, and after thanking them for the information, we went off to look for it around the area. We were going to walk to where we had the Redpoll before for some photos, but on the way Aaron found 6 more Redpolls. They soon flew off, but as Aaron looked in the direction they were flying, he spotted a group of 8-10 birds flying over. We decided they were Waxwings, so we tried to see where they would land. After watching them descend on some willows, we walked over to find them. Waxwings like to feed in big groups, which will attract more waxwings. We figured that these waxwings were going to lead us to more waxwings, and that the Bohemian might be feeding with them.

We walked only a short distance until we found around 70 Cedar Waxwings. All that was left for us to do was to "sort" through them until we found our prize! Unfortunately, the rest of the birders were waiting back at the Gardens, so it was just us over there. As we were sorting, two birders came over and helped us look. After about 10 minutes, some people walking by were curious about what we were doing. I told them that we were looking for a Bohemian Waxwing, which lives up north from Illinois and is very rare. I said it had a red undertail and was much bigger than the Cedar Waxwings around us. As I said that, I looked up to check a bird, and noticed it had red undertail coverts. It took a second to process, but I then shouted, "There it is! Oh my gosh! GOT IT!!!"

The Bohemian was feeding right above our heads, and stayed around for a good 3 minutes before flying off. It allowed amazing views, and practically posed for the small group of people looking at it. Unfortunately the big group of people came over a bit later, and did not see the bird for another hour after we left. This was Illinois State bird #307 and US Life Bird #505. Here are a few of my photos of this amazing Waxwing:

I hope I can track down some Evening Grosbeaks in Illinois soon, as they were my original targets for the winter. I must thank my mom for the speedy driving there and helping us look for the bird. It was an awesome day. Also thanks to Al Stokie for finding this bird.

Good birding and thanks for reading!



  1. A Bohemian waxwing in Chicago, that most be a mega rare bird in the US. Nice blog btw.

    André Holland Europe

  2. Andre, Bohemian Waxwings actually occur all throughout the northern and boreal forests of the US and Canada. Illinois is just a bit far south of their range, which is why it is so rare.