Cedar Waxwing

The Encyclopedia Brown book series were some of my favorite books to read when I was a kid. The series was about a young boy whose nickname was Encyclopedia Brown. He was a junior detective. He would solve cases for the neighborhood kids for 25 cents. One his cases involved a flock of wild birds. The wild birds were a flock of the lovely Cedar Waxwings.

After reading that story- I had always wanted to see a Cedar Waxwing. (I don't remember the specifics regarding why the Cedar Waxwing was important to the case in the book- but I do remember that it involved the birds getting drunk from eating too many fermented berries- which is something that they really do from time to time- some Cedar Waxwings die from eating too many fermented berries.)

I finally saw a flock of Cedar Waxwings (their scientific name is Bombycilla cedrorum) when I was in my twenties. They are easy to identify by their call (a high pitched, but soft tsee tsee kind of whistle) as well as their habit of traveling in flocks. Unfortunately, many times they are feeding high in the trees. And because the Cedar Waxwing is a very small bird- they aren't much bigger than a sparrow- to really admire them you will need to have some binoculars handy.

The Cedar Waxwing is indeed a handsome bird- in my opinion, it is one of the prettiest birds native to North America. The tip of their tail looks as if it has been dipped in yellow paint, and there is just a splash of brilliant red on the outside tips of their wing feathers. The rest of the Cedar Waxwing is a study of flowing grays, tans, and soft yellows. Each color of its coat seems to taper and fade perfectly into the other.

Other than to witness its remarkable beauty in person for myself, I had another reason for wanting to see the Cedar Waxwing. The Cedar Waxwing is a highly social bird. Not only do they travel in flocks, but they are also known to sit on branches, several Waxwings to a row. If there are berries at the end of the branch, then the Cedar Waxwing nearest to the branch will pluck a berry and then pass it to the next Waxwing in the row. That Cedar Waxwing will then pass the berry to the Waxwing next in the row, which will then pass it on down the row until the Cedar Waxwing at the end of the row receives the berry. I think that that is truly amazing for a wild bird to have that instinct and behavior.

I was thrilled today (November 11, 2008) when we had a flock of Cedar Waxwings stop by our yard. My wife had never seen one. She too was surprised at their beautiful colors. I have been looking for this common bird of uncommon beauty since I was a kid. I am glad that I get to see it every now and then.


Appalachian Lady said...

Great photos of a lovely bird. We have Cedar Waxwings migrating through in the fall and spring, usually when the dogwood trees have berries on them. But, I missed them this year. Thanks for posting these photos.

letspaintnature.com said...

Wow! You're so lucky to have the waxwings visit! My bird book says they are common in Illinois, but I really have never seen them. I want to so badly!

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

Today, Daniel? I've seen them in the spring but haven't been fortunate enough to see them in the fall of the year. GREAT shots, btw!!! I can't seem to get close enough to get those details. Cedar Waxwings are some of my top fave birds - lovely!

Daniel Spurgeon said...

Hi Debi, I see what you mean by "today". I added the actual date after that comment- which makes more sense. Thanks for pointing that out. Thanks for the compliments on the shots. I used the 400mm lens with the 1.4x extender. So that makes for a 35 mm equivalent focal length of 1120mm (400 * 1.4 * 1.6 crop factor). I love Cedar Waxwings as well- I haven't seen them here again since that day- November 11.

Anonymous said...

Awesome! I took some great shots of a flock of them at my home here today in Charlotte NC.

hacienda said...

Today a flock of cedar waxwing graced our yard in Charlotte, NC. About 8 rested in our Gardenia Bush, and an unknown number rested further to the rear, in our Leyland Cypress. They are such beautiful birds, and we got to see them from about 10 feet away. A couple of weeks ago, we had 4 of these birds in our pink dogwood. This is the first year in our long lives that we have witnessed these birds in person.