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WaxwingsCedar Waxwing

wax wingThe best way to attract Waxwings to your yard is to have plants that have berries such as Holly or Hawthorn.  They also like a forest or wooded areas.

Identification, Pictures and video

Cedar waxwings eating berries in juniper bushes video above. For other bird videos please visit our Youtube channel and subscribe or like our videos.

Most videos on my site were taken with the Canon HG10 camcorder.

There are three species of waxwings.  Cedar and Bohemian waxwings are found in North America and the third species, the Japanese waxing is found in eastern Asia.

Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwings are sleek golden brown birds a little larger than a sparrow about 6 1/2 to 8 inches in length.  Their fluffy soft feathers almost look like fur.  The fawn colored plumage blends into an ashy gray.

Waxwings get their name from the red teardrops at the tip of the secondary wing feathers.  The drop which looks like red wax can be seen on most adults.  Sometimes it will also be on tail feathers. 

Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

waxwing pair The breast will sometimes be a yellowish color.  Both sexes look alike.  They have a head crest, much like Cardinals or Blue Jays.  There is a yellow band at the tip of their tail, and under tail coverts are white. 



cedar waxwing There is a black patch or mask that starts above the eyes, and crosses over above the beak.  This short beak is slightly hooked, to help it easily pick berries, and catch small insects.  Waxwings like many birds have specialized beaks.  

Young birds are more of a gray color with light streaks on the under parts.  Instead of a the black mask the adults have, young birds have white on their cheeks, and behind their eyes

 Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla Garrula)Bohemian Waxwing

Bohemian Waxwings are similar to the Cedar Waxwing but a bit larger.  They have a rusty crest, and face, but are more of a gray color, with no yellow on the belly.  Bohemian's have white, and yellow markings in the wing and tail feathers have yellow tips.  Under tail coverts are a deep, rusty color.


Photo by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

Phainopepla  (Phainopepla nitens) Phainopepla Waxwings

Although waxwing like bird has a similar shape they have none of the coloring Cedar waxwings do.  Males are shiny black and females are more of a gray color.

Song and Calls

Most of the time waxwings are not heard.  The song is a quiet, high-pitched hissing whistle. This is often given when they are in flight or are just taking off.  It sounds something like seee.

When perched they can be heard giving a light cricket like call, and high bzeeee trill.

Sound 1
Sound 2

Range and Habitat

In the summer waxwings can be seen across Canada, and the Central U.S.  They are in the pacific northwest, central and northeast U.S. all year long, and will stay in woodlands, orchards, and open areas where there are trees, and shrubs with berries.  They like to spend the winter in the southern half of the U.S. 

Breeding and Nesting

In late spring males can be seen hopping around doing their courting dance.  During breeding season they will feed in flocks.  Males will also pass berries to females.  If a female is interested she will dance with the male.  The two birds will hop from side to side and pass a berry back and forth.  This will go on to the end of summer.

The female will choose a nest site.  The nest is a bulky structure of grass, leaves, fibers, bark, twigs, and moss.  They will use bits of string or cloth set out by people.

Waxwing Eggs  Cedar Waxwing egg

The female will lay three to six pale bluish gray eggs, with dark markings.  She will incubate the eggs for 10 to 12 days.  During this time the male will stand guard and bring her food.  Both parents feed the chicks which fledge in about two weeks.  Adults store food for the young in a crop or pouch located in the throat.

Food and Feeding

Waxwings love fruit, their favorite being berries.  If you havewaxwings trees, and shrubs with berries on them you may see large flocks of these extremely social birds.   Waxwings will fly in and stay as long as the fruit lasts, then they will be gone.  Often the birds eat fermented berries, and become intoxicated.

They will also eat insects, which provide a good protein source especially during breeding season.

Photo by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D and a 70 to 300 zoom lens.

Waxwings will eat raisins or sliced fruit such as apples or oranges.

For more on food and feeding click here.
For more on feeders click here.

To learn about other favorite birds click here.

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