The Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum, is one of those birds that brings out mixed emotions amongst many people. The sight of a wild bird feeding in a garden is generally a pleasant one, the sight though of a flock devouring all of the fruit and berries in that garden might though be less than welcome.
Cedar Waxwings are found throughout North and Central Americas at various points during the year. During the summer breeding season, the Cedar Waxwings are found in southern areas of Canada, and the northern states of the United States. The birds though are migratory, and whilst a few states might have populations which are resident all year round, in most cases the waxwings will migrate in huge flocks to the warmer states and countries.
The Cedar Waxwing is a medium sized bird that is predominantly brown and grey in colour, being light brown on the head, which blends into grey over the wings and tail. Wings are tipped in red, whilst the tip of the tail is yellow. Cedar Waxwings have yellow bellies, but it is the black face mask that is the bird’s most distinguishing feature.
Cedar Waxwings are widely known for the fact that their diet is predominantly made up of fruit and berries, and during the summer months this is the sole element of their diets. Indeed the breeding season for the birds is based around the peak production of berries and fruits in the wild. Strawberries, mulberries, serviceberries, raspberries and dogwood are all eaten in large volumes. The affinity for berries though is shown within the name of the Cedar Waxwing, where the bird is named for the Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana, a favoured winter berry. Berries and fruits though are supplemented by an intake of insects, both flying ones and those found on the ground at various points throughout the year.
During the breeding season, male and female Cedar Waxwings form monogamous bonds after a short courtship. The courtship will involve the passing of fruit back and forth between the two birds. The female is often considered the dominant partner, deciding upon the location of the nest, and also ensuring that the nest is up to standard. Normally the nest of the Cedar Waxwings is constructed in the fork of a tree, and is made up of thousands of pieces of fine vegetation.
During the breeding season one or two broods are raised, with a clutch of between two and six eggs being laid. Incubation of the eggs normally lasts for two weeks. Once hatched, the young Cedar Waxwings are initially totally reliant on their parents, although within a couple of week they will be able to fly with the flock.
Cedar Waxwings are not uncommon, and flocks of thousands of waxwings form during their migration. Numbers are increasing slightly as well, ensuring that it is one bird species that should be present throughout North America for many years to come.