Cedar Waxwing
Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Bombycilla cedrorum
Population size
52 Mlnlnn
Life Span
7-8 years
Top speed
40
25
km/hmph
km/h mph 
Weight
30
1
goz
g oz 
Length
15-18
5.9-7.1
cminch
cm inch 
Wingspan
22-30
8.7-11.8
cminch
cm inch 

The Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) is a member of the family Bombycillidae or waxwing family of passerine birds. The genus name Bombycilla comes from the Ancient Greek bombux, "silk" and the Modern Latin cilla, "tail"; this is a direct translation of the German Seidenschwanz, "silk-tail", and refers to the silky-soft plumage of these birds. The specific cedrorum is Latin for "of the cedars".

Appearance

Cedar waxwings are medium-sized birds named for their wax-like wingtips. Their markings are a "silky, shiny collection of brown, gray, and lemon-yellow, accented with a subdued crest, rakish black mask, and brilliant-red wax droplets on the wing feathers." These droplets may be the same color as the madrone berries they are known to eat. These birds' most prominent feature is this small cluster of red wax-like droplets on the tips of secondary flight feathers on the wings, a feature they share with the Bohemian waxwing (but not the Japanese waxwing). These wax-like droplets are attributed to the pigmented and medullary layers of the secondary tip being surrounded by a transparent cuticle. The wings are "broad and pointed, like a starling's." The tail is typically yellow or orange depending on diet. Birds that have fed on berries of introduced Eurasian honeysuckles while growing tail feathers will have darker orange-tipped tail feathers. The tail is somewhat short and square-tipped. Adults have a pale yellow belly. The waxwing's crest often "lies flat and droops over the back of the head." It has a short and wide bill. The waxwing's black mask has a thin white border. Immature birds are streaked on the throat and flanks and often do not have the black mask of the adults. Males and females look alike.

Video

Distribution

Geography

Cedar waxwings breed in southern Canada and winter in the southern half of the United States, Central America, and the far northwest of South America. Their preferred habitat consists of trees at the edge of wooded areas, or "open" forests, especially those that provide access to berry sources as well as water. They are frequently seen in fruiting trees. In urban or suburban environments, waxwings often favor parkland with well-spaced trees; golf courses, cemeteries, or other landscaping with well-spaced trees; bushes that provide berries; and a nearby water source such as a fountain or birdbath. Also look for them near farms, orchards, and gardens, particularly ones with fruiting trees or shrubs.

Cedar Waxwing habitat map

Climate zones

Cedar Waxwing habitat map
Cedar Waxwing
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Habits and Lifestyle

Cedar waxwings are sociable non-territorial birds that are seen in flocks year-round. Outside the breeding season, they often feed in large flocks numbering hundreds of birds. Cedar waxwings are nomadic and irruptive and will move in huge numbers if berry supplies are low. They move from place to place depending on where they can find good sources of berries. Cedar waxwings are attracted to the sound of running water and love to bathe in and drink from shallow creeks. They also frequently spend time grooming each other in order to keep their soft silky plumage healthy. These birds feed by day plucking berries in fruiting trees; they eat berries whole. They sometimes fly over water to catch insects. Cedar waxwings communicate with each other vocally; they call often, especially in flight. Their two common calls include very high-pitched whistles and buzzy trills often represented as 'see' or 'sree'. Their call can also be described as "high, thin, whistles."

Group name
Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Cedar waxwings are herbivores (frugivores) and carnivores (insectivores). They eat berries and sugary fruit year-round, including dogwood, strawberry, mulberry, raspberry, serviceberry, cedar, juniper, hawthorn, and winterberry. Insects become an important part of their diet mainly in the breeding season.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
INCUBATION PERIOD
11-13 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
14-18 days
BABY NAME
chick
web.animal_clutch_size
5-6 eggs

Cedar waxwings are serially monogamous; they form bonds that last only during one breeding season which begins around the end of spring and runs through late summer. The male will do a "hopping dance" for the female. If she is interested, she'll hop back. During courtship, the male and female will sit together and pass small objects back and forth, such as flower petals or an insect. Mating pairs will sometimes rub their beaks together affectionately. The nest is a loose open cup built with grass and twigs, lined with softer materials, and supported by a tree branch averaging 2 to 6 m (6.6 to 19.7 ft) above ground. Usually, 5 or 6 eggs are laid and the female incubates them for 11 to 13 days. The eggs are oval-shaped with a smooth surface and very little if any, gloss. The eggshells are of various shades of light or bluish-grey with irregular, dark brown spots or greyish-brown splotches. Both parents feed the young and typically raise one or two broods during the breeding season. The chicks are born naked, blind, and helpless. They leave the nest about 14 to 18 days after hatching and usually form flocks with fledglings from neighboring nests.

Population

Population threats

Cedar waxwings are considered globally threatened. However, they do sometimes crash into windows, and get hit by cars while foraging along roadsides.

Population number

According to the All About Birds resource the total breeding population size of the Cedar waxwing is 52 million birds. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, and their numbers today are increasing.

Ecological niche

Cedar waxwings play an important role in their ecosystem by dispersing seeds of various fruit species they feed on. These birds are also sometimes responsible for significant damage to commercial fruit farms and thus can be considered a pest, especially because they forage in large groups.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The fondness of the Cedar waxwing for the small cones of the eastern redcedar (a kind of juniper) gave this bird its common name.
  • Cedar waxwings are also known as the southern waxwing, Canada robin, cedar bird, cherry bird, or recellet.
  • The flight of Cedar waxwings is strong and direct, and the movement of the flock in flight resembles that of a flock of small pale European starlings. Cedar waxwings fly at 40 km/h (25 mph) and fly at an altitude of 610 m (2,000 ft).
  • It takes around 5 or 6 days for the female Cedar waxwing to build the nest and can take up to 2,500 trips back and forth. Sometimes the female may steal nest material from other species' nests to save time.

Coloring Pages

References

1. Cedar Waxwing on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedar_waxwing
2. Cedar Waxwing on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22708153/94151379
3. Xeno-canto bird call - https://xeno-canto.org/663227

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