How to Attract Waxwings with Berries

Win over waxwings with native fruit-bearing plants.

When it comes to appearances, there’s nothing quite like cedar waxwings and bohemian waxwings. They’re mostly covered in sleek brown plumage, but their handsome good looks are in the details—slicked-back head feathers, a black eye mask, waxy red wing tips, and a tail that looks as if it’s been dipped in yellow paint. Spotting just one of these attractive birds is a treat, but now’s the time to go out and find a whole flock of waxwings.

Where to See Waxwings and What Waxwings Eat

Photo credit: Sharon Siter (B&B reader)
Photo credit: Sharon Siter (B&B reader) A cedar waxwing plucks a berry and tosses it in the air.

Waxwings are incredibly social birds that forage in flocks year-round. But come fall, you might spot hundreds at a time descending on a single berry-filled tree or shrub. Waxwings are nomadic; where they breed and spend winter varies each year, because they travel to places where fruit is most abundant. A flock could show up almost anywhere in the country throughout the fall and winter months.

Look for these drifters anywhere berry-producing trees or shrubs grow—woodlands, farms, orchards, suburban parks or your backyard. You might hear them before you see them, so learn their high-pitched sseee call. Once you spot a flock, watch for peculiar behaviors, like waxwings passing a berry to each other, or a bird plucking fruit and tossing it in the air.

Help waxwings find your yard by planting natives that produce small berries, such as dogwood, serviceberry, cedar, juniper, hawthorn or winterberry. (Read more! Top 10 Plants That Attract Waxwings)

Learn More About Bohemian Waxwings

photo credit: Bill Leaman
photo credit: Bill Leaman A bohemian waxwing perches on a tree branch.

Less widespread than their cedar waxwing relatives, Bohemian waxwings are found in the far Northwest and in states along the Canada border in winter. There are very subtle differences between the two species—Bohemians are grayer and have red coloring under their tails. When perched, white wing bars are visible on Bohemians (they’re absent on cedar waxwings). Where the ranges overlap, both species might be spotted in the same group.

Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten is the executive editor of Birds & Blooms. She's been with the brand in various roles since 2007. She has many favorite birds (it changes with the seasons), but top picks include the red-headed woodpecker, Baltimore oriole and rose-breasted grosbeak. Her bucket list bird is the painted bunting.