The Cedar Waxwing of the Pacific Northwest
The South Coast including South Vancouver Island has many cedar waxwings but it is a rare treat to observe them on the North Island.
The cedar waxwing is a dark brown bird with a pale brown crest and black eye patches and chin. Its head is pale brown and gradually fades to pale yellow towards its belly. It has a black tail with a yellow tip and white under tail coverts.
Its wings are predominantly black and has a thin red bar found on its secondary wing feathers. Its beak is short and thin.
The male and females are similar except that females are slightly smaller. Juveniles can be told apart from adults by their duller gray heads and bodies and the blurry streaks found on their bellies. Cedar Waxwings are around 15 to 18 cm in length and have a wingspan of 28 to 32 cm.
Their nests are made of moss, dried grass, twigs, weeds, and pine needles. Cedar waxwings sometimes use materials gathered from nests of other bird species as part of their nests.
Cedar waxwings are not very particular with the height of their nests so that nests can be found from anywhere between 2 m to 8 m above ground in shrubs and trees. During nesting season cedar waxwings become very approachable.
May marks the start of the cedar waxwing’s breeding season. The cedar waxwings form pairs at the start of the breeding season and remain monogamous for the rest of the nesting season. During courtship the male and female hop back and forth towards and away from each other. They also usually pass berries back and forth while hopping.
Cedar waxwings are voracious eaters dining primarily on fleshy fruits with high sugar content. Cedar waxwings are especially fond of berries and have even been observed to sit in a row on berry bushes passing berries between one another. In summer cedar waxwings extend their diet to include insects like beetles, weevils, flies, cicadas, caterpillars, and ants.