Cedar Waxwings, the fruit specialists

Cedar Waxwings can be found feasting on berries when they have ripened in the fall. Actually they eat fruit all year round (though they also eat insects) but they become most obvious when they descend in large numbers (sometimes in the hundreds) on trees and shrubs with ripe berries. In fact they are one of only a few North American bird species known for specializing in fruit and that can survive just on fruit for a few months.

Cedar Waxwings are distinctive birds with black masks on their faces, with colorful red highlights on their wing tips, a pale yellow belly and a bright yellow tip (though sometimes reddish) on their tails. They range across all of the lower U.S. states and much of Canada but, because they are an irruptive species (they are nomadic and wander around seeking food sources), they may not be seen for years then appear in large numbers to demolish a fruit crop before  disappearing again.

They are also more noticed because they are almost always seen in flocks. If you see one by itself, there are likely more nearby. I often hear Cedar Waxwings before I see them as they have distinctive whistled calls. You can listen to some of their calls on this Audubon Guides webpage.

I love to see a flock of these beauties come to my yard as I have 3 crab apple trees that are dedicated for birds to feed upon during the fall and winter. It is always enjoyable to me to see, and listen to, a flock of Cedar Waxwings as they almost inhale the tiny sour treats ( my dog Chase also likes them and can be found reaching up to pick them off for himself!). Though there is no guarantee that these beauties will visit your yard if you plant some small fruit shrubs or trees (they often feed on serviceberry, strawberry, mulberry, dogwood, and raspberries), but they will not likely visit if you do not provide them.

Cedar Waxwings got their names because of the their waxy appearing red tips on the end of their wings and for their affinity for cedar trees which provide cedar berries that they can feed upon when other fruit is not available.

Have you ever been visited by Cedar Waxwings?

Have you heard their whistled calls?

  1. Betty Whirry says

    I also love to watch and listen to the cedar wax wings. I have a cedar “forest” right outside my back door so I often see flocks of them-year round. They also like mountain ash berries and will clean a tree in just a few hours.

  2. Daisy says

    My first ‘visit’ by a flock of Cedar Waxwings was 3 years ago and was frozen to the spot …so many and so different ! Did not see them the following year but have been told they only pass this way every second year…I did get some great shots when I recovered…

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