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Bird Bio: Cedar Waxwing

Bird Bio: Cedar WaxwingCedar Waxwing
By: Emily Molter, KBO Wildlife Education Specialist

The Cedar Waxwing is one of only three species worldwide in the Bombycillidae family. Their breeding range extends from British Columbia across Canada, southward to northern California, northern Arkansas, and northern Georgia. Their winter range extends to southern Canada southward through United States and Mexico into Central America. Many birds in Eastern North America prefer the berries of the Eastern Redcedar, hence the “Cedar” in their name. The birds are also named for the red, waxlike tips on the secondary flight-feathers of adult birds. The color of the tips is produced from pigments that are obtained from the birds’ fruit diet.

The Cedar Waxwing eats sugary fruits seven months out of the year. They often gorge themselves on fermented fruit, which leads to a flightless intoxication. Many aspects of the birds’ lifestyle revolve around fruit because it is the main source of their diet. Cedar Waxwings are a social species that can be seen feeding in large flocks. Flocking is an effective way to search for clumped food sources rather than foraging individually. They are partial migrators and move around to find food. Their breeding season is among the latest of North American passerines coinciding with the seasonal availability of ripening fruits. The birds lay eggs from early June through early August.

Cedar Waxwing populations have increased during the last 20 years over much of North America due to the creation of edge habitats with fruiting trees, the planting of fruiting trees and shrubs in rural and urban areas, and the elimination of the use of DDT from agriculture. Even though populations are increasing, Cedar Waxwings still have predators including humans. These birds are vulnerable to collisions with windows. Birds can also be struck by automobiles when feeding on fruit near roadways. Collisions can be minimized by keeping fruiting trees away from these potential hazards. By providing high-protein foods in feeders during the early breeding season and planting fruit-producing shrubs or trees, you can attract Cedar Waxwings to your yard and enjoy their beauty.

This article appears in KBO’s Winter 2007 newsletter.


Birds of Oregon edited by D.B. Marshall, M.G. Hunter, & A.L. Contreras; The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by D.A. Sibley; The Birds of North America by G.R. Geupel and G. Ballard

Photo: Brad Sillasen, courteousy of Friends of Sausal Creek