Cedar Waxwing

(Bombycilla cedrorum)

Cedar WaxwingThese warm-brown, crested birds (Bombycilla cedrorum) cannot be mistaken, especially when a flock is feeding on cherries or mulberries. Flocks of waxwings will descend on a bittersweet vine or pyracantha shrub in a large group, stripping the berries in minutes. If the berries have fermented, the birds can actually get drunk and will flop around until they get sober. But their digestive systems are amazing; the seeds of berries are eliminated within 45 minutes following ingestion.

Smaller than a Robin the Cedar Waxwing is a sleek, crested, brown bird with black mask, yellow tips on tail feathers, and red tips on secondary wing feathers. The belly is pale yellow, the undertail coverts are white. The plumage of the Cedar Waxwing appears as though made of soft velvet. These waxwings are from 6-1/2 to 8 inches long. The female is similar to the male. Young are streaked below.

Three to five grayish blue eggs (.9x.6 in.); speckled brown or black (mostly at large end) are laid in a bulky nest of bark, leaves, grasses, rootlets, moss and sometimes mud. The nest is often built in fruit and shade trees at a height of from 5-50 feet. These birds usually nest late in summer. They are found in open woodlands, orchards and residential areas. Their voice is a soft whistled trill, tseee.

These birds breed from southern Alaska east throughout the southern tier of Canada and south to California, Illinois, and Virginia. They winter from British Columbia, into the United States from the Great Lakes region and New England southward.

Cedar Waxwings travel in large flocks of 40 or more during the winter, calling constantly with their soft whistled trills, flying from tree to tree. They feed on berries in winter, insects during milder seasons.