This week's "Bird of the Week" is the Cedar waxwing. This beautiful, medium-sized songbird looks like it was hand painted. It has a crest on top of it's head and it's face has a black mask edged in white. The tip of the tail is yellow or sometimes orange and most Cedar waxwings have red wax droplets at the end of their wings. The name "waxwing" comes from the waxy red appendages found in variable numbers on the tips of the secondaries of some birds. The exact function of these tips is not known, but they may serve a signaling function in chosing mate.The males and females look nearly alike.
Cedar waxwings are frugivorous, meaning that they are fruit eaters. Most of its diet is made up of berries, especially in the winter. Berries play a large role in the cedar waxwing's breeding, social and migratory behavior. Cedar waxwings will perch on a branch and pluck berries or it will hover in the air and grab berries. In the northern part of their range, the cedar berry is a large part of their diet. Cedar waxwings will sometimes pass berries to one another as they perch in a line on a tree branch. Occasionally a cedar waxwing will become drunk or even die from eating berries that have fermented. The cedar waxwing will also eat sap, flowers and insects. They occasionally wait for an insect to fly by and then take off after it and catch it in the air.
Look for Cedar waxwings in winter around fruiting trees. They will often be found in flocks.
Photo from Terry Sohl.