Cedar Waxwing vs Bohemian Waxwing: What’s the Difference?

by Victor
Published: Last Updated on

Within the realm of waxwing species, two distinct birds stand out: the Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) and the Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus). While both species share some similarities in appearance and behavior, they also possess unique characteristics that set them apart. In this article, we explore the key differences between the Cedar Waxwing and the Bohemian Waxwing, shedding light on their physical attributes, habitat preferences, and distribution.

Physical Characteristics:

Size: One of the primary distinguishing features between the two species is their size. The Cedar Waxwing is smaller, measuring approximately 6 to 7 inches (15 to 18 cm) in length, while the Bohemian Waxwing is larger, ranging from 7.5 to 9 inches (19 to 23 cm) in length.

Plumage and Colors: Plumage patterns and colors provide notable differences between the two species:

Cedar Waxwing: The Cedar Waxwing displays a more subtle color palette. It showcases a brownish-gray upper body, a pale yellow belly, and a black mask extending from the bill to the eyes. Its wings feature wax-like red tips on the secondary feathers, creating a vibrant contrast.

Bohemian Waxwing: The Bohemian Waxwing boasts a more pronounced coloration. Its overall plumage is predominantly gray, with a warm brownish tone on the back and wings. The bird exhibits a striking black mask that extends from the bill to the eyes, similar to the Cedar Waxwing. However, its yellow belly is often tinged with a peachy hue. The Bohemian Waxwing also possesses bright red wax-like tips on the secondary wing feathers.

Behavior and Habitat Preferences:

Flocking Behavior: Both species exhibit a highly social nature and engage in communal behaviors. They often form large flocks, particularly during the winter months when they congregate for feeding. However, Cedar Waxwings tend to form smaller flocks compared to the larger flocks typically observed among Bohemian Waxwings.

Habitat Preferences: Cedar Waxwings are commonly found in a range of habitats, including woodlands, open forests, orchards, and urban areas with berry-producing trees. They are more adaptable to urban environments. On the other hand, Bohemian Waxwings are strongly associated with boreal forests and prefer habitats characterized by coniferous trees. They have a greater affinity for wilderness areas and are less frequently observed in urban or suburban landscapes.


Cedar waxwings are found throughout much of North America, from southern Canada down to Central America. They prefer habitats with trees and shrubs, such as orchards, gardens, and parks, where they can feed on fruit and insects. During the winter months, they tend to migrate to warmer regions, such as Mexico and the southern United States.

Bohemian waxwings, on the other hand, are mainly found in the northern parts of North America, such as Alaska and Canada, although they may also be spotted in some areas of the United States during the winter months. They tend to inhabit boreal forests, where they feed on berries and insects.

Behavior and Diet

Both species of waxwings are known for their unique feeding behaviors. They have a specialized diet that consists mainly of fruit and insects. Their digestive system is adapted to digest the sugars found in fruit, allowing them to consume large quantities of berries at one time without becoming sick.

Cedar waxwings often travel in flocks, searching for fruit trees to feed on. They are also known for their synchronized flights, where they fly close together in a zig-zag pattern. This behavior is thought to help them avoid predators by confusing them with their movements.

Bohemian waxwings also exhibit flocking behavior and are often seen in large groups during the winter months. They have been known to feed on a variety of berries, including mountain ash, juniper, and chokecherry. In addition to fruit, Bohemian waxwings also feed on insects, making them an important part of the ecosystem in their habitat.

Breeding Habits

Cedar and Bohemian waxwings have different breeding habits. Cedar waxwings typically breed in late spring or early summer, building nests in trees and shrubs using twigs, grasses, and other materials. The female lays 2-5 eggs, which both parents incubate for around two weeks. After hatching, the chicks are fed a diet of insects until they are old enough to consume fruit.

Bohemian waxwings, on the other hand, tend to breed later in the year, usually in May or June. They build their nests in coniferous trees, using twigs and grasses to create a cup-shaped structure. The female lays between 4-6 eggs, which both parents incubate for around two weeks. Once the chicks hatch, they are fed a diet of insects and berries.


While the Cedar Waxwing and the Bohemian Waxwing share certain similarities, such as their wax-like wingtips and social behaviors, their distinctions become evident upon closer examination. Differences in size, plumage colors, habitat preferences, and distribution set them apart. Understanding these dissimilarities enriches our appreciation for these fascinating bird species and reinforces the importance of preserving their habitats to ensure their continued presence in our natural ecosystems.

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