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.