Cedar Waxwing Migration: Where Do Waxwings Go in Winter?

Learn about cedar waxwing migration and where these colorful birds might show up during the cold weather months.

Question: A few winters ago, I spotted cedar waxwings eating the fruit off my Cleveland pear trees. I’m wondering about cedar waxwing migration. Is it normal for them to be here, or do they typically fly south for the winter? —Anna Zimmerman of Avenue, Maryland

Kenn and Kimberly: Cedar waxwings are wanderers, and they may show up anywhere in southern Canada or the lower 48 states, including the coastal plain of Maryland. Classic nomads, they almost always travel in flocks. These social birds do nearly everything as a group, seeking out trees and shrubs heavy with ripe berries or small fruits. Finding food motivates their movements.

It’s normal for them to be in your area, but it’s also normal for them to disappear for months at a time. The timing of their travel is very unpredictable, but if you keep an eye on those Cleveland pear trees when the fruits are ripe, you might see waxwings again. Look for wandering waxwings at flowering crab, hawthorn, mountain ash, deciduous or evergreen hollies, junipers and more—any berry bush that offers a feast big enough for a flock.

Learn how to attract waxwings with berries—or a mountain ash tree.

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman
Kenn and Kimberly are the official Birds & Blooms bird experts. They are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. They speak and lead bird trips all over the world. When they're not traveling, they enjoy watching birds and other wildlife in their Northwest Ohio backyard. Fascinated with the natural world since the age of 6, Kenn has traveled to observe birds on all seven continents, and has authored or coauthored 14 books about birds and nature, including include seven titles in his own series, Kaufman Field Guides, designed to encourage beginners by making the first steps in nature study as easy as possible. His next book, The Birds That Audubon Missed, is scheduled to be published by Simon & Schuster in May 2024. Kenn is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society, and has received the American Birding Association’s lifetime achievement award twice. Kimberly is the Executive Director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) in northwest Ohio. She became the Education Director in 2005 and Executive Director in 2009. As the Education Director, Kimberly played a key role in building BSBO’s school programs, as well as the highly successful Ohio Young Birders Club, a group for teenagers that has served as a model for youth birding programs. Kimberly is also the co-founder of The Biggest Week In American Birding, the largest birding festival in the U.S. Under Kimberly’s leadership, BSBO developed a birding tourism season in northwest Ohio that brings an annual economic impact of more than $40 million to the local economy. She is a contributing editor to Birds & Blooms Magazine, and coauthor of the Kaufman Field Guides to Nature of New England and Nature of the Midwest. Accolades to her credit include the Chandler Robbins Award, given by the American Birding Association to an individual who has made significant contributions to education and/or bird conservation. In 2017, she received a prestigious Milestone Award from the Toledo Area YWCA. Kimberly serves on the boards of Shores and Islands Ohio and the American Bird Conservancy.