Class: Aves Order: Passeriformes Family: Bombycillidae Number of species: 8 species


Birds of the Bombycillidae family range in size from about 5.9 to 9.4 inches (15 to 24 centimeters) long and can weigh from 1 to 2.1 ounces (30 to 60 grams). They are sleek, elegantly marked songbirds, with short bills, crested heads, and plump bodies. Waxwings generally have buff-gray bodies with black eye and chin masks. Their contrasting wings have white, yellow, or vivid red patches. Except for the Japanese waxwing, their common name refers to the distinctive red appendages on their secondary flight feathers, which look like drops of wax. Biologists do not know if the spots have a purpose, but they are absent in juveniles. The birds' tail bands are usually yellow, but sometimes orange. Waxwings have very high-pitched chatters, whistles, and warbles that many human ears can miss. Silky flycatchers have longer tails, and their crests look more bristly. These birds are generally brown, black, or gray, and some of the four species have yellow or white patches. The gray hypocolius is a gray bird with a black mask and tail band. Ornithologists, scientists who study birds, continue to debate whether the hypocolius makes up a separate family of birds unrelated to the flycatchers and waxwings.


Each of the three groups has a different range. Waxwings are present across temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia, while the cedar waxwing winters as far south as Guatemala. Silky flycatchers occupy habitat from the southern United States into Central America, and the gray hypocolius lives in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

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