Cedar Waxwing

Bombycilla cedrorum

The Cedar Waxwing is one of the most frugivorous birds in North America. Many aspects of its life, from its nomadic habits to its late breeding season, may be traced to its dependence upon fruit.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • The name "waxwing" comes from the waxy red appendages found in variable numbers on the tips of the secondaries of some birds. The exact function of these tips is not known, but they may serve a signaling function in mate selection.
  • Cedar Waxwings with orange instead of yellow tail tips began appearing in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada beginning in the 1960s. The orange color is the result of a red pigment picked up from the berries of an introduced species of honeysuckle. If a waxwing eats the berries while it is growing a tail feather, the tip of the feather will be orange.
  • The Cedar Waxwing is one of the few temperate dwelling birds that specializes in eating fruit. It can survive on fruit alone for several months. Unlike many birds that regurgitate seeds from fruit they eat, the Cedar Waxwing defecates fruit seeds.
  • The Cedar Waxwing is vulnerable to alcohol intoxication and death after eating fermented fruit.

Description

  • Size: 14-17 cm (6-7 in)
  • Wingspan: 22-30 cm (9-12 in)
  • Weight: 32 g (1.13 ounces)
  • Medium-sized songbird.
  • Gray-brown overall.
  • Crest on top of head.
  • Black mask edged in white.
  • Yellow tip to tail; may be orange.
  • Small bill.
  • Yellow belly.
  • White under tail.
  • Black chin patch.
  • May have red wax droplets on tips of secondaries.
  • Small legs and feet.
Sex Differences
Sexes nearly alike.
 
Male
Chin patch on male more extensive and darker than on female.
 
Immature
Juvenile similar to adult, but grayer overall, with broad streaking on underparts, no black on throat or behind eye.
Range Map
 
Taxonomic Hierarchy

Spotted_Sandpiper_AllAm

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Bombycillidae
Genus: Bombycilla Vieillot
Species: Bombycilla cedrorum
Sound
Calls are very high pitched "bzeee" notes.

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
Body
  • Length Range: 18 cm (7 in)
  • Weight: 31 g (1.1 oz)
  • Size: 2. Small (5 - 9 in)
  • Color Primary: Brown
  • Underparts: Buff
  • Upperparts: Red-brown
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
 
Head
  • Bill Shape: All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Grayish brown in juveniles; Gray-brown to reddish brown in immatures; Deep reddish--brown in adults.
  • Head Pattern: Eyeline, Plain, Masked, Crested or plumed
  • Crown Color: Red-brown
  • Forehead Color: Red-brown
  • Nape Color: Red-brown
  • Throat Color: Red-brown
  • Cere color: No Data
Flight
  • Flight Pattern: Strong rapid flight with several quick wing strokes.
  • Wingspan Range: 28-31 cm (11-12.25 in)
  • Wing Shape: Tapered-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Squared Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Gray
  • Under Tail: White
  • Leg Color: Black
Breeding
  • Breeding Location: Forest edge
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Colonial or solitary nester
  • Breeding Population: Fairly common to common
  • Egg Color: Pale blue gray with black and brown spots
  • Number of Eggs: 2 - 6
  • Incubation Days: 12 - 16
  • Egg Incubator: Both sexes
  • Nest Material: Sticks, mosses, and grass.
  • Migration: Migratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Hatch naked and helpless.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Jaseur d' Amérique (French)
  • Ampelis Americano, Picotera, Chinito (Spanish)
  • Bohemian Waxwing is slightly larger, has reddish under tail, gray belly, and white and yellow stripes on closed wing.

Conservation Status

Populations increasing throughout range. You can help scientists learn more about this species by participating in the Celebrate Urban Birds! project.

Habitat

Sources used to Construct this Page:

  • Breeds in open woodland, old fields with shrubs and small trees, riparian areas, farms, and suburban gardens.
  • Winters in areas with fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, especially open woodlands, parks, gardens, and forest edges.
  • Witmer, M. C., D. J., Mountjoy, and L. Elliot. 1997. Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). In The Birds of North America, No. 309 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Food
Fleshy fruit and insects.
Behavior
Flycatches for flying insects; gleans insects from vegetation. Plucks fruit while perched, or may hover briefly to snatch fruit. Swallows entire fruit.

Adult Sexes Similar

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Additional Photos & Video

Adult Sexes Similar

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Videos
   
 
 

All photos © 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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