Monday, October 26, 2009

In the backyard... Cedar Waxwing

Cedar WaxwingCedar Waxwing, Fernhill Wetlands, Forest Grove, Oregon on 1 August 2009 by Greg Gillson.


Many backyard birders are already familiar with the crested Cedar Waxwing. This handsome bird breeds throughout the Pacific Northwest in towns and woodland edges, but is rare or absent in dense higher forests and treeless expanses of the Great Basin. In winter they are irregular and rare, as most move south in their search for berries--their primary food.

Migrant Cedar Waxwings arrive in large numbers in May. They wait to nest until berries (cherries, blueberries, hawthorn) are ripe. They often nest twice in the year, raising broods first in June, then again in August. Local numbers are augmented by migrants from the north and many young-of-the-year in September and October.

These birds are found in flocks except during the nesting season. Flocks fly from tree to tree, eating fruit and giving constant high-pitched trilling calls. In August and September they can often be seen hawking larger insects out over rivers.

The primary field marks are the fawn-colored upperparts and crest, black mask, pale yellowish belly, and darker tail with yellow tip. At close range (see photo above) the name sake waxy red tips can be seen on the wings.

In winter, nomadic flocks of birds are most often noted in larger cities where they can find berries from introduced fruit-bearing trees. Important winter fruits come from holly bushes west of the Cascades and juniper berries east of the Cascades.


  1. Do you ever get Bohemian Waxwings over your way Greg? They are sometimes mixed in the the Cedars and even with Starlings.

    Two winters ago we had large flocks of them in the Boise area, but last winter there were hardly any.

  2. Thanks for the question about Bohemian Waxwings, Robert.

    Bohemian Waxwings are nearly annual in winter in NE Oregon, near Enterprise and Baker. Some winters they move down to Malheur NWR in SE Oregon.

    They are very rare and irregular west of the Cascades, and more so farther south. It seems that someone reports them somewhere in western Oregon every couple of winters. They can be in flocks or single birds. In 37 years I have only seen them once west of the Cascades, a single bird at Finley NWR, near Corvallis, clear back in the mid 1970's.

  3. Just saw a flock in my backyard in NE Portland. They are so beautiful. What a treat.

  4. I was happy to see this picture as it helped me identify my mystery birds :) saw 2 a few days ago in the Woodburn/Hubbard area.