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.

Interesting Information

  • 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.


Adult 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 Similar


Chin patch on male more extensive and darker than on female.


Juvenile similar to adult, but grayer overall, with broad streaking on underparts, no black on throat or behind eye.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


  • 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.


Flycatches for flying insects; gleans insects from vegetation. Plucks fruit while perched, or may hover briefly to snatch fruit. Swallows entire fruit.


Fleshy fruit and insects.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Bombycillidae
Genus: Bombycilla
Species: Bombycilla cedrorum

Similar Species

  • Bohemian Waxwing is slightly larger, has reddish under tail, gray belly, and white and yellow stripes on closed wing.

Bird Sound

Calls are very high pitched "bzeee" notes.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution