All You Need To Know About Cedar Waxwing

by Victor
Published: Last Updated on
Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) is a bird species native to North and Central America. It is known for its distinctive appearance with a sleek, crested head, black mask, and a yellow-tipped tail. The bird has a brownish-gray plumage with a waxy texture, giving it its name. Cedar Waxwings are social birds that often travel in flocks and can be found in various habitats, including forests, parks, and gardens. They primarily feed on fruits, berries, and insects, and are known for their unique feeding behavior, where they pass berries between individuals. Cedar Waxwings are admired for their beautiful plumage and melodious, high-pitched calls.

Distinctive Appearance

One cannot help but be enchanted by the cedar waxwing’s ethereal beauty. A medium-sized bird, approximately 6-7 inches in length, the cedar waxwing boasts a striking blend of colors that lend it an air of elegance. Its smooth, pale brown plumage is punctuated by subtle yellow accents on the belly and undertail coverts. However, the pièce de résistance lies in the waxwing’s distinctive features: sleek black mask-like markings on the face, bright red wingtips, and a unique “waxy” appendage at the tip of each secondary feather. These waxy tips are the hallmark of the species and serve as an essential field identification feature.

Habitat and Range

Cedar Waxwings can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and even urban areas. They are most commonly found in the northern parts of North America, including Canada and the northern United States. However, they can also be found in the southern parts of the United States, as well as in Mexico and Central America.

Cedar Waxwings are migratory birds, which means that they travel long distances between their breeding and wintering grounds. They typically breed in the northern parts of their range, and then migrate south for the winter. During the breeding season, Cedar Waxwings can be found in a variety of habitats, including open woodlands, orchards, and even suburban areas.

Diet and Foraging Behavior

Fruits, particularly berries, constitute the mainstay of the cedar waxwing’s diet. Their feeding habits are synchronized with the availability of fruiting trees, making them integral to forest ecosystems’ health and diversity. The waxwings’ voracious appetite for berries and fruits plays a crucial role in seed dispersal, aiding in the propagation of plant species across landscapes. The waxwings’ keen foraging techniques involve scanning for clusters of ripe fruit and deftly plucking them from trees. Interestingly, their preference for fermented berries has been known to cause mild intoxication, leading to their whimsical, unsteady flight patterns – a behavior that has earned them the colloquial nickname “cherry drinkers.”

Social Structure and Vocalizations

Cedar waxwings are not only aesthetically captivating but also intriguing in their social dynamics. They are highly social birds, often congregating in large flocks, especially during migration or when food resources are abundant. These flocks exhibit remarkable coordination during flight, their synchronized movements a testament to their tight-knit social structure. Their vocalizations, though not particularly varied, consist of high-pitched, whistling calls and soft trills. These calls serve both communication and social bonding purposes, reinforcing the unity within the flock.

Breeding and Reproduction

During the breeding season, which typically occurs from late spring to early summer, cedar waxwings engage in elaborate courtship displays. Males and females perch closely together, passing small objects – such as berries or flower petals – to each other. These shared offerings are symbolic of their pair bond and cooperation, emphasizing the importance of collaboration in their species’ survival. Nests are usually built in trees, utilizing a variety of materials such as twigs, grass, and moss, cemented together with their own sticky saliva. The female typically lays a clutch of 2-6 pale blue eggs, which both parents take turns incubating. Once the eggs hatch, the young birds are cared for by both parents, highlighting their commitment to cooperative parenting.

Conservation and Ecological Importance

The cedar waxwing, though not currently listed as a species of concern, plays a vital role in maintaining the health of ecosystems across North America. Its consumption of berries and fruits aids in seed dispersal, contributing to the regeneration of plant species and the overall biodiversity of forests and other habitats. As such, the presence of cedar waxwings serves as a valuable indicator of ecosystem health. However, like many bird species, the waxwing faces threats such as habitat loss due to urbanization, pesticide use, and collisions with buildings. Conservation efforts aimed at preserving diverse habitats and raising awareness about the importance of maintaining avian-friendly environments are crucial to safeguarding the cedar waxwing’s future.


In the vast tapestry of avian life, the cedar waxwing stands out as a symbol of beauty, adaptability, and ecological importance. From its distinct plumage and waxy wingtips to its foraging behaviors and role in seed dispersal, this bird exemplifies nature’s ingenuity. As we continue to navigate the challenges of habitat conservation and environmental awareness, the cedar waxwing serves as a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness of all living beings and the value of preserving the delicate balance of our natural world.

Some Interesting Facts About Cedar Waxwings

Q1. What do Cedar Waxwings look like?

Cedar Waxwings are sleek birds with a brownish-gray overall plumage. They have a black mask covering their eyes and a crest of feathers on their heads. Their most prominent feature is the bright red waxy tips on their secondary flight feathers.

Q2. Where are Cedar Waxwings found?

Cedar Waxwings are native to North and Central America. They can be found in various habitats, including woodlands, orchards, gardens, and areas near water sources.

Q3. What do Cedar Waxwings eat?

Cedar Waxwings primarily feed on fruit, especially berries. They have a specialized diet and are known for their ability to feed on berries that other birds might avoid due to toxins. They also eat insects during the breeding season.

Q4. Do Cedar Waxwings migrate?

Yes, Cedar Waxwings are migratory birds. They are known for their irregular migration patterns, which can vary depending on food availability and weather conditions. They can be found in different regions during different seasons.

Q5. Are Cedar Waxwings social birds?

Yes, Cedar Waxwings are highly social birds and often gather in flocks, sometimes numbering in the hundreds. They are known for their synchronized movements and harmonious calls.

Q6. Do Cedar Waxwings breed in specific areas?

Cedar Waxwings breed across their range in North America. They build their cup-shaped nests in trees and shrubs, often in well-hidden locations. They usually lay 3-6 eggs, and both parents participate in incubating the eggs and raising the young.

Q7. Is it rare to see a cedar waxwing?

Cedar Waxwings are not considered rare birds, but their presence can be somewhat sporadic and unpredictable. They are known to move in large flocks, and their movements can be influenced by the availability of food sources, particularly fruit-bearing trees and shrubs.

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