Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Cedar Waxwings Are Here!

Have you had a day like I have? The anticipation and excitement of the holidays are over. Family is gone and house is put back together. So, you relax with a cup of tea to look outside at the brown leaves, brown grass, brown trees when all of a sudden a dash of color catches your eye? Mother Nature has teased us with a succession of color with the Cardinal and Bluejay, then Pine Warbler and Goldfinch and now she treats us with the Cedar Waxwing! Enjoy these sleek, tuxedoed, black-masked birds while you can because when their food source is gone so are they.

The Cedar Waxwing is a medium-sized, sleek bird with a large head, short neck, and short, wide bill. They are pale brown, gray or olive on the head and chest with the color fading to soft gray on the wings. They sport a belly of pale yellow, a bright yellow tip on the tail and have a crest that often lies flat and droops over the back of the head. Their face has a narrow black mask outlined in white. The wings, with brilliant-red wax-like droplets on the feathers (hence their name), are broad and pointed. The square-tipped tail is fairly short and rufous underneath. Waxwings in the Northeast United will have an orange tip on their tails, caused by eating the berries of Morrow’s honeysuckle. I suppose this is much like feeding your baby too much carrot and sweet potato baby food and its nose turns orange.

Most often you hear these birds before you see them. When you hear their high-pitched “sreeeeee “whistle, look up and you will see a huge flock flying at break-neck speed stopping short of crashing head on into a tree.

In winter these birds flock together to come and eat berries. They are mostly frugivorous (fruit eater). If you have Dogwood, Cedar, Juniper, Holly, Cherry Laurel or Privet, you will have Cedar Waxwings. They will also eat early spring buds of the maples and elms. When they have eaten all the berries, they move on. At this point you will remember you have left your white car parked outside.

Often Cedar Waxwings pass berries to one another as they perch in a line on a tree branch. Occasionally a waxwing will become drunk from eating fermented berries. These birds also groom each other. Mating season begins in late spring and runs through late summer. The male courts a female by doing a hopping dance and passing berries or pieces of fruit to the female. If the female is interested, she will do a hopping dance and pass the fruit or berry back to the male! The pair may do this a number of times in a row!

Sounds like some folks I know who think they can dance after having several drinks!


  1. Loved the photos and the info on these lovely birds. Sonnia

  2. Loved this entry on your blog, Ann! Beautiful pics and info. Darlene

  3. Loved this entry too Ann. I think everyone knows this is one of my favorite birds. Thanks Ann.. you have taught me a lot the past few months about various birds.

  4. That is a pretty bird. I don't see many here in OKC; they must be secluded or reclusive in this area.

  5. I have only seen these birds once - they were dining on my pyracantha berries. I don't have it anymore, though, so I guess they pass me by now. Your photos are wonderful - especially the last one. Funny that they turn different colors from their food source. Great info!

  6. Dear Ann,

    May I please have permission to use your lovely image of the Waxwings passing the berry? I'm putting together a PowerPoint presentation for educational purposes, and I'd love to use your photo to help illustrate some of the things we can learn from birds.

    Thank you so much for considering my request!


    Kimberly Kaufman

    1. I believe I found this photo on the internet. You might search there for it. I can not take credit for it.