The Cedar Waxwing is an excellent choice to be a "bird ambassador" for the ABA in 2020. These gregarious birds are known for their beauty, with striking plumage that includes a dramatic black mask and wax-like red tips to their secondary wing feathers.
These migratory songbirds can be found in much of North America -- summer-only across parts of Canada and only in the winter across roughly the southern half of the continent. Here in Florida, we enjoy flocks of them feasting on berries throughout the late winter and early spring.
The Cedar Waxwing is the 10th Bird of the Year from the organization. Previously honored birds are as follows, with links to our Birdorable version when available.
Bohemian Waxwings are on the move this winter! A poor berry crop in their northern range may be driving them outside of their usual winter haunts. Flocks have been seen around southern Lake Michigan and individuals have been reported in many northeastern states in the U.S. The birds have also been reported in the Netherlands, where they rarely make an appearance.
If you think our Birdorable birds are cute as adults, what about when they are babies? Below are some baby photos (shared via Flickr) of the Cedar Waxwing. After breeding season, these social birds can be found in large flocks, feeding on berries and bathing together in groups. When it comes to breeding, Cedar Waxwings are relatively late nesters, starting activities in June to as late as August. They build cup-like nests in trees, usually in the fork of a branch. Usually four eggs are in each clutch. Females take care of incubation duties; males stand guard at the nest and provide food for the female.
P1140367 by FancyLady | Cedar Waxwing nest
Second feeding attempt by AlanH2O
Waxwing chick in the sun by AlanH2O
Young Cedar waxwing in nest. by Alan Vernon.
Young Cedar waxwings in nest....#2 by Alan Vernon.
Cedar Waxwings are named for the waxy red tips on the end of their secondary feathers. The number of wax tips and their size increase as the bird gets older.
Cedar Waxwings LOVE fruit. They can even survive on fruit alone for several months!
Brown-headed Cowbirds hatched from eggs that were dropped in a Waxwing nest typically don't survive because they are unable to grow on such a high fruit diet.
Waxwings can get drunk from eating overripe berries that have started to ferment and produce alcohol! Flocks of intoxicated birds have been known to simultaneously hit large windows.
Cedar Waxwings don't have a real song. Instead they make a quiet trilling or buzzing sound.
The tail of Cedar Waxwings usually has a yellow band at the end, but in the 1960s birds with orange bands started to show up in the northeastern United States. The orange color is a result from red pigment found in non-native honeysuckle fruits introduced to their diet.
They eat in shifts. One group will eat first and then moves out of the way for the next group to come in. This is very polite compared to most birds, who just try to grab what they can individually.
A group of waxwings is called an "ear-full" or a "museum" of waxwings.