Bohemian versus Japanese Waxwing
by A. Bräunlich
Two species of waxwing occur in NE Asia: The wide-spread, commoner and well-known Bohemian Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus and the rather rare and globally near-threatened Japanese Waxwing Bombycilla japonica.
Bohemian Waxwing probably nests in northern Mongolia, but it is much better known as a fairly common to very common winter visitor to many parts of the country, originating from breeders of the vast Russian taiga.
Japanese Waxwing on the other hand hasn’t been reliably recorded in Mongolia, there is just doubtful record from the eastern part of the country.
Igor Fefelov from Irkutsk commented recently on a post in Birding Mongolia that there is a powerful invasion of Japanese Waxwing this autumn/winter, with individuals occurring far west of their usual range, which lies in the Russian Far East and adjacent NE China (Japanese Waxwing doesn't breed in Japan, it's just a passage migrant and winter visitor in Nippon!). They are likely occurring together with Bohemian Waxwings, and there were even some records of Japanese Waxwing from the area around Lake Baikal.
Also, a Japanese Waxwing was trapped much further west, from a flock of Bohemian Waxwings in the Tien Shan Mountains near Almaty, in southern Kazakhstan on 3 January 2013.
First-winter male Japanese Waxwing, Almaty,
Kazakhstan, Jan 2013, photo © Denis Afanasiev
According to Arend Wassink, age based on wing pattern and lack of prominent crest, sex based on broad tailbar and sharply defined throat patch.
See also Birds of Kazakhstan/птицыКазахстана and
Given these observations it seems not unlikely that a Japanese Waxwing could turn up in Mongolia, too! WATCH OUT: This is your chance for documenting the first Japanese Waxwing for Mongolia! Check each waxwing flock carefully: Japanese Waxwing can easily be picked out by its red terminal tailband (yellow in Bohemian!)! Compare the photos below.
Bohemian Waxwing, below Songino Khairkhan Uul, Jan 2012
Photo © Andreas Buchheim
Japanese Waxwing. The numbers refer to the main characters distinguishing Japanese from Bohemian: 1: reddish-chestnut scapular band (missing in Bohemian), 2: no white spots, no red waxen tips to coverts in Japanese, 3: no yellow in primaries in Japanese, 4: terminal tail band red (yellow in Bohemian), 5: yellowish patch on central belly (not in Bohemian).
Photo © Jason L. Buber, courtesy WikiCommons
If you find a Japanese Waxwing take as many photos as possible! Waxwings are often very tame, and can be approached very closely. So even a photo taken by a smartphone camera will do! Good luck!