Cedar Waxwing

Bird of the Month: Cedar Waxwing

By Hugh Jennings

PC: Mick Thompson (Cedar Waxwing)

PC: Mick Thompson (Cedar Waxwing)

Scientific Name: Bombycilla Cedrorum

Length 7 in

AOU Band code CEWA

All waxwings have sleek crests, silky plumage, black eye-stripe, and yellow-tipped tails.  The Cedar Waxwing (CEWA is the letter code) is approximately 7 inches long.  Its belly is pale yellow; undertail coverts are white, and has only red spots on the wing.  In comparison, the Bohemian Waxwing (BOWA) is about one inch longer, is more grayish with a bray belly; reddish-brown undertail coverts; and has red, yellow and white spots on the wing.  Both eat insects and a large variety of wild fruits and berries.  When feeding on insects it can frequently be seen acting like a flycatcher (which is in the same family).  The CEWA is common in the Puget Sound area in spring and summer and occasionally at other times.  The BOWA is rare in winter west of the Cascades, but fairly common in eastern Washington.  Both are usually found in large flocks.  The CEWA call is a very high-pitched, thin “seee”.  Its nest consists of grasses, twigs, and mosses lined with rootlets and fine materials, placed in a fork or branch of a tree, 6-50 ft. above ground.  Some CEWA are around all year, but most migrate further south.  In September it is common to see large flocks of 200-300 birds gathered together in the tops of trees as they get ready to migrate.

These intelligent birds can hover in flight and pass a berry from one bird to the next, down the limb, from the food source to the last bird on the inside of the limb.  And yet, during the breeding season, Waxwings are not territorial but merely defend the immediate vicinity of the nest.  This behavior is associated with the lack of a well-developed song, although their song is often strikingly soft and musical.