Waxwings are a real treat to find in your backyard, they display a beautiful mixture of color and grace. In the fall these birds gather by the hundreds to eat berries, In the summer you’re very likely to find them over rivers in pursuit of flying insects, where they show off dazzling flight technique for a forest bird. Waxwings are slim, crested, brown birds, with sleek plumage; black chins and reddish brown foreheads, waxlike tips to the secondary wing feathers; and a yellow band across the end of their squared tails. They eat berries, especially cedar and mountain ash, they also eat seeds and insects. And to me, it looks like they have a really sleek pair of sun glasses on!
Keys To Identification
6 - 8 inches. (16 - 20 centimeters) in length (fully grown), and weigh about 30 grams (1.5 ounces). They have a wingspan of about 9 - 12 inches (22 - 30 Centimeters).
Waxwings are crested brown, with little or no white in wings. Their upper body is red brown, they have a yellow abdomen, under-tail is mostly white, and they have a yellow band at tip of their tail. At some angles it often looks like the Cedar waxwings are wearing sleek black shades.
Adult: most show waxy-red tips on their secondary wings.
Juvenile: duller, more gray, with blurry streaking on the underside. (As seen in the picture below on my fathers hand.)
"Thin, high hiss or lisp, zeee, sometimes lightly trilled." i
Cedar Waxwings are very social birds that you’re likely to see in small flocks year-round. For the most part, Cedar Waxwings will spend their time in Fruiting trees swallowing berries whole. They are also capable of plucking them in mid-air while hovering beside them. It seems as though you will see them around one day, and they would be gone the next. They also feed on insects in the air, and from what I have read, they are also known to get drunk on overripe berries – Cool glasses, and now they are getting intoxicated? - They sound like a party bird to me! They are sociable and know how to enjoy some free time. Their behavior during mating is actually quite interesting; the Male will essentially present the female with a gift. That gift would be an insect, a fruit or a flower petal. After the female takes the present she will hop away, and upon arrival she will give the item back to the male. They are known to repeat this a few times until, typically, the female eats the gift. How Romantic!
Cedar waxwings like to spend most of their time in woodlands of all different types, farms, orchards, open woods, edges, and suburban gardens where you will see fruiting trees or shrubs that they can enjoy. They inhabit deciduous, coniferous, and mixed woodlands, particularly areas along streams. It is fairly common to find a Cedar Waxwing in your backyard in Toronto! (See picture below)
We have learned that Cedar Waxwings love fruit; they can survive on just fruit alone. In the summer when a lot of fruits are ready to be eaten, you can come across a Cedar Waxwing eating fruits such as service-berry, strawberry, dogwood, mulberry, and raspberries. They also eat Cedar berries in the winter time – This is very common and was used to actually name the bird. When the winter does arrive they eat mistletoe, juniper berries, mountain ash, crab-apple, honeysuckle and hawthorn fruits. They really do Love fruit as you can tell, but they also take in a bit of protein to help balance out their diet in the summer time. Insects are packed with protein, and these birds will eat dragonflies, mayflies and stone-flies. They also eat other insects such as worms and beetles.
The Bohemian Waxwing certainly looks like the Cedar waxwings older family member! They are a bit bigger as you can see from the picture. And they have more of a gray coloring in comparison. One simple way to differentiate between the two is from their wing feathers – the Bohemian Waxwing has white lines going across its wings, and the Cedar Waxwing does not! Also, the Bohemian Waxwing doesn't really have any white coloring on his "sunglasses". The simplest way to tell them apart is just from their size, the Bohemnian is bulkier than the Cedar.
Range: (the geographical area where this species can be found) This Range is specifically charted for the Cedar Waxwing only.
As Seen above, the Cedar Waxwing breeds from South East Alaska all the way across the Canadian border. They are also known to breed in parts of Central California. The Cedar Waxwing will winter from parts of British Colombia and mostly throughout the United States. They spend most of their time Year Round from parts of Washington D.C through Wisconsin, Ontario, and all the way to Vermont. Covering a large chunk of primarily the United states, and small areas of Canada also. It seems that Cedar Waxwing populations are increasingly growing throughout their range. This seems to be happening because the use of berry trees such as mountain ash in landscaping is becoming more common and popular! So as far as keeping this wonderful species alive, this is great news.
Interesting Facts:The Cedar Waxwing is one of the few North American birds that can specialize in eating just fruit. It can survive on just fruit alone for numerous months at a time. Many other birds that try to follow the same diet of a Cedar Waxwing usually end up dying. Young chicks of other bird species simply cannot develop and grow when eating such a high fruit diet.
Here is a picture of a juvenile Cedar Waxwing that was social enough to land on my dad's hand! You can tell he is a juvenile not just cause of his size, but because of his grayish color.
Video Courtesy of The Naturalist, 2009
In this video you can see a few Cedar Waxwings feeding; my first impression was that these were actually Bohemian Waxwings just by looking at their size! But they are in fact Cedar Waxwings, you can tell because they don’t have any white stripes on their wings. If you think otherwise, please post a topic of discussion in the forums.
"Cedar Waxwing." The Great Backyard Bird Count. Web. 11 Nov 2009. <http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/gallery/2006-photo-contest-runners-up/1063-2064-3o6yk1piz9.jpg/view>.
"Cedar Waxwing." All About Birds. Web. 11 Nov 2009. <http://www.wildlife-photography.uk.com/blog/?p=384>.
"Bohemian Waxwing." Bird Forum. Web. 10 Nov 2009. <http://www.birdforum.net/opus/Bohemian_Waxwing>.
"Cedar Waxwing Range." All About Birds. Web. 10 Nov 2009. <http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/PHOTO/LARGE/bomb_cedr_AllAm_map.gif>.
"Dad with a Cedar Waxwing." DeRango, Domenic. Personal photo. 07 June 2009.
"Cedar Waxwings." Youtube. Web. 8 Nov 2009. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pQkB7k_7Do>.
i Ransom, Jay Ellias. Complete Filed Guide To North American Wildlife. Eastern Edition. New York: Harper and Row, 1981. 112-194. Print.
Gustave, Yaki . "Talk About Wildlife." Cedar Waxwing. Shawn Mcrae, Web. 11 Nov 2009. <http://talkaboutwildlife.ca/profile/?s=253>.