Cedar Waxwing

Common Name: Cedar Waxwing

Class:  Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Bombycillidae

Genus: Bombycilla

Species: Bombycilla cedrorum

Photo: Ivan Andrijevic

 

 

 

The Cedar Waxwing is one of three species that make up the Waxwing family – Bombycillidae – and is the only Waxwing that can be found in Western New York year-round.  The Cedar Waxwing’s Latin name, Bombycilla cedrorum, can be translated to mean “silk wagtail of the cedars.”  In other words, these sleek silky looking birds have an affinity for the cedar trees, and can often be found with its tail in motion.  The Cedar Waxwing has a mostly tan head and upper body, a dull yellow belly and flanks, and a grey lower back, wings, and tail. The Cedar Waxwing shows yellow tips on its tail but this color may vary to a darker red color that depends on their diet.  The Cedar Waxwing it's distinguishable from the larger Bohemian Waxwing  by size and also the contrast between the Cedar Waxwing's yellow belly yellow-red waxy wingtips compared to the Bohemian Waxwing that has a  light grey belly and white wing tips.

Photos: M. Noonan

Cedar Waxwings can be found throughout the northern half of the United States and the southern most portion of Canada, from the east coast to the west coast, year-round.  During the summer, they also migrate further north into Canada, as far as the northern border of Saskatchewan.  During the winter, they will migrate and be found in the southern half of the United States, from coast to coast, and throughout Central America.  They rely mainly on fruit for food, and when fruit is not available, insects become a large part of their diet. Usually Cedar Waxwings will make their homes in open woodlands within these ranges where fruiting shrubs and trees may be found.

Photo: M. Noonan

 

Cedar Waxwings are extremely social birds, and they often live in large groups. The reason for this being that the major part of their diet, fruit, is usually patchy  and hard to come by so living in groups helps locate their food source.  Also because of this flocking behavior they do not display many signs of territoriality, with the exception of males towards other Cedar Waxwings when the male’s mate is in/near the nest with him.  This behavior is especially seen during nest building and egg laying periods.  During the breeding season, Cedar Waxwings will create pair bonds formed through courtship feeding, and mating pairs will remain together for the entire nesting season.  They often raise two broods per season, each clutch an average of 4 eggs.  It is not known whether Cedar Waxwings remain together year after year or mate for life.  The amount of time it takes for eggs to hatch varies tremendously within Cedar Waxwings, however, after hatching it takes an average of 16 days for the hatchlings to leave the nest.

 

Photo: M. Noonan

 

Cedar Waxwings may be found through out Western New York all year round and because Cedar Waxwings depend so heavily on fruit for their food, looking in fruit bearing trees and bushes for feeding birds would be wise.  During the breeding season, males can often be found perching high above the nest; this may be a good way to spot a nearby nest.

 

Photo: M. Noonan

 

Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.