Common Name: Cedar
photo M. Noonan
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. Two features shared by the three species of this family of
birds include a prominent crest and a striking face mask. 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 can be distinguished from the Japanese
Waxwing by habitat alone, but also by spotting its bright yellow tail tip.
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. Its pale belly
distinguishes it from the Bohemian Waxwing, which is a slightly darker
bird. The Cedar Waxwing shows red tips on some of its wing tips, while the
Bohemian Waxwing also displays yellow and white on its wings. These red
waxy tips are how the Waxwings get their name. As a bird ages, more red
tips are seen.
photo Ivan Andrijevic
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.
Usually Cedar Waxwings will make their homes in open
woodlands within these ranges. Much of the time, nearby
their nest will be some sort of open water. They rely
mainly on fruit for food, and when fruit is not
available, insects become a large part of their diet.
Cedar Waxwings are
extremely social birds, and they often live in large groups. 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,
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 Ivan Andrijevic
Where to see them in WNY
Cedar Waxwings depend so heavily on fruit for their food, looking in fruit
bearing trees and bushes for feeding birds would be wise. Also, they
sometimes make appearances in orchards. 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.