Cedar Waxwing

Hey guys, welcome back. Today is one of two waxwing species in the US. In fact there are only three waxwings overall. The cedar and bohemian waxwings found here in North America, and the Japanese waxwing found in, you guessed it, Japan. There’s no mistaking a waxwing either. They are very slick and smooth looking birds with a sleek black eyemask and crest similar to that of a blue jay or cardinal. All the waxwings share these features but can be separated by size and overall coloration. The cedar waxwing is a warm brown fading to a lemon yellow belly, gray wings and yellow tail tip. They get their name from the red waxy secretions on their feathers. Scientists aren’t 100% sure why they have this waxy substance or what its purpose is, but the prevailing theory is to attract mates.

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Cedar waxwing bathing, Central Park, NY

The cedar waxwing is found in every one of the lower 48 states of the US and is fairly common. They are often heard first, as they are typically high in trees. Their song is a very high pitched insect-like buzzing call. Cedar waxwings are highly social birds, and its rare to see just one. Look for them in trees that produce berries. In fact, just a couple weeks ago I cam across a flock of over 50 eating what was left of some crabapples! Speaking of… cedar waxwings are frugivorous, meaning they eat mostly fruit. They are one of the few bird species that can survive on fruit alone. In fact, brown-headed cowbirds that are hatched in waxwing nests often die because they cannot survive on the strictly fruit diet.

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Cedar waxwings in a cherry tree, Astoria, NY

One of the coolest looking birds out there, I can’t actually remember the first one I spotted. Usually birds like this I can. But I do remember coming upon a small flock bathing in a tiny stream one summer in Central Park (pictured here.) And when I found a large flock in the cherry tree in my back yard when I lived in Queens. Waxwings are always cool to see and nearly always the highlight of any bird walk I do for people. Beautiful birds that will often seem to put on a little show for you. Our next bird is cool looking too, even though I’ve never seen one. But wait, if I’ve never seen one, how is it on my list? Check back next time to find out! See you all then!

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