Cedar Waxwings love fruit

by Dave Hanks

This is a species that you can’t help falling in love with. Their soft, subtle colors are pleasing to the eye. This bird is 7 ¼” long, with a noticeable crest, sharp beak, black eye mask, tan upper body, gray lower dorsal area, yellow lower belly, and white under-wings. The tail is tipped with yellow and the wings are tipped with red – both looking as if dipped in wax and thus the origin of their name.

It can be distinguished from its cousin (the Bohemian Waxwing) by its yellow rear-end. The Bohemian has a cinnamon rear-end and is slightly larger. The Cedar Waxwing is a summer resident but migrates south and is replaced in winter by the Bohemian Waxwing, down from northern climes.

All waxwings are very gregarious. They are quiet birds that can be easily overlooked, but when spotted, you will notice that a tree is usually inundated with them. When one individual flies, it usually sparks the whole flock to depart with it. Their call is a soft, high pitched, trilled whistle.

They like semi-open habitat with berry producing trees and shrubs. They are nomadic (following berry availability) and are voracious fruit eaters. They also consume insects and flower petals in summer time. In winter, they favor areas with junipers – feeding on the juniper berries. Their winter diet is composed totally of fruit.

They are monogamous and will answer threats by other males or species by an open mouth, erect crest, and fluffed feather display. The males’ courting displays consist of a hopping dance and the bringing of fruit presents to the female. Nesting is late - June to August. They may raise two broods, each taking 15 days to fledge. The parents will continue to feed the young for 10 days after they have left the nest.

“If you build it, they will come.” So we planted Mountain Ash, Crab Apple, and many berry producing shrubs in our yard to attract waxwings. However, we are hoping that they will eventually discover us. Our robins also like fruit and perhaps the completion is too great and the waxwings stay away.

My daughter has always had a love affair with this bird and has several pictures of it in her home. Its’ irresistible charm is infectious!

(At rest in plain view)