My Bantam Lake

Cedar Waxwing

Written on 06/10/2018

Bombycilla cedrorum

The Cedar Waxwing is a medium-sized, sleek bird with a large head, short neck, and short, wide bill. Waxwings have a crest that often lies flat and droops over the back of the head. The wings are broad and pointed, like a starling’s. The tail is fairly short and square-tipped. They measure 14 to 17 centimeters in length, with a wingspan of 22 to 30 centimeters. Cedar Waxwings are pale brown on the head and chest fading to soft gray on the wings. The belly is pale yellow, and the tail is gray with a bright yellow tip. The face has a narrow black mask neatly outlined in white. The red waxy tips to the wing feathers are not always easy to see. Cedar Waxwings are social birds that you’re likely to see in flocks year-round. They sit in fruiting trees swallowing berries whole, or pluck them in mid-air with a brief fluttering hover. They also course over water for insects, flying like tubby, slightly clumsy swallows. Look for these birds in woodlands of all kinds, and at farms, orchards, and suburban gardens where there are fruiting trees or shrubs. This species is of low conservation concern. 

Fun Facts:

  • The name "waxwing" comes from the waxy red secretions found on the tips of the secondary  of some birds. The exact function of these tips is not known, but they may help attract mates.
  • The Cedar Waxwing is one of the few North American birds that specializes in eating fruit.
  • Building a nest takes a female Cedar Waxwing 5 to 6 days and may require more than 2,500 individual trips to the nest.
  • The oldest recorded Cedar Waxwing was a male that lived to be at least 7 years, 1 month old.


Source: Cedar Waxwing Overview and Identification Information, All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology