Mendocino Coast Audubon Society logo Mendocino Coast Audubon Society

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

When I hear their soft-pitched trill whistle, I quickly look up in the tops of the trees for the gentle Cedar Waxwings. They are silky, sleek fawn-colored birds with a prominent crest and striking black band through their eye. Their belly is pale yellow and their dark tail is tipped in bright yellow.

Waxwings are named for the bright-red waxy drops at the end of their inner wing feathers. Waxwings soft, silky plumage is thought to belong to a relic group of birds that have vanished. Their relationship to other birds is obscure. They are very unpredictable in their movements and can be found in almost any state at any time of year.

Cedar Waxwings feed on seeds and insects but their main diet is berries such as cedars and mountain ash. They have been known to gorge themselves till they can scarcely fly. They have a charming ritual of all closely lining up on a branch and passing a berry back and forth till one finally swallows it. In courtship, pairs will pass a flower petal or an insect back and forth. Cedar Waxwings are so tame that during the nesting season they have been known to take pieces of string right out of peopleís hands and have plucked the hair from womenís heads.

Iím Pam Huntley wishing you happy birding.

First published June 2009 MCAS Whistling Swan
Cedar Waxwing photo courtesy of Tim Bray