Waxwings breed from northeast Europe eastward through Asia to northwest America. They winter south to central Europe and to similar latitudes elsewhere along their breeding range.
    Small numbers may reach Britain in any winter, with larger numbers in years when there are irruptions from northeast Europe caused by failures of the local berry crop co-inciding with population  peaks following successful breeding seasons. This can lead to distorted patterns of population change when figures are based on results from only a limited number of years. Thus Bird Atlas 2007-2011 showed the British winter population distribution as having increased by over 900% since the 1981-84 Winter Atlas, there having been only one minor irruption during the winters from 1981 to 1984 whereas there were two major irruptions in the winters covered by the more recent atlas.
    In Wiltshire there were a few scattered records of Waxwings during the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, with only one record, in 1850, indicating a possible major irruption. There were records in eleven winters between 1946 and 1974, of between one and three birds, the only exception being a group of 24 feeding on fallen berries in February 1953 after a hard frost. There were records in four more years between 1975 and 1991, then in 1995-96 there were records totalling 18 birds at ten different sites, forming a small part of a large irruption into Britain estimated to total up to 10,000 birds. Wiltshire did play a greater part in the next national influx in 2004-05, when an estimated 26,000 Waxwings arrived in the country. They were recorded in 19 sites in Wiltshire, with a peak count of 585 on 30 Jan. There were further, though smaller, irruptions in 2010-11, 2012-13 and 2017, all of which produced widespread reports in Wiltshire. WTA2 recorded Waxwings present in 42 tetrads.

The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
“1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
“1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
“Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.