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Bird Identification

Waxwings

Species Profiles

Cedar Waxwing

Bombycilla cedrorum L 7 ¼" (8cm)


play the song/call of a cedar waxwing

Photo by Maslowski Wildlife Productions.

Named for its fondness for cedar berries and the waxy red tips on its wing feathers, the sleek looking, dapper bird is easily recognized by its delicate yellow-brown plumage, its crest, and the distinctive black mask. It breeds from central Canada through the northern US, but in winter, flocks can descend on fruit and berry trees almost anywhere from the US/Canada border south through Mexico. A flock can strip the fruit from a holly or cedar tree in an amazingly short time and they rarely hang around one area for more than a day or two. Although vocal, especially in flocks, they are often overlooked because the common call is a very high, thin, slightly sibilant shree, and it is easy to miss it unless you are thinking waxwing. Even in summer they are easy to overlook because the song is just a simple series of the same notes, frequently disappearing in the chorus of other summer birds. Cedar waxwings have been extending their breeding range south in the East for several decades, perhaps taking advantage of the increasing number of ornamental shrubs and bushes that produce fruits and berries early in the year. Cedar waxwings occasionally get into trouble when they consume fruits that have fermented on the vine and the birds, disoriented by the alcoholic content, will fly irregularly and sometimes fall victims to cars, glass windows, and predators.

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