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The Cedar Waxwing

The cedar waxwing is a pretty little bird that comes to the yard in the winter.

Cedar waxwingA sleek, crested bird, about seven inches in length, he is brownish-grey with a golden belly.

His feathers are very smooth and glossy, which is why he's called a waxwing. He eats berries, including cedar berries, and there you have the explanation for his whole name.

I've got their song recorded. They all cry out at once with a high, soft squealing noise. Click to hear cedar waxwings.

Cedar waxwingWhat's hard to see in my pictures is that each bird looks like he has dipped the tip of his tail in a can of bright yellow enamel paint.

What you absolutely can't see (but I haven't stopped trying to catch it) is the red bar on each wing. The little red and yellow marks are shiny primary colors, quite unique looking. You can maybe just see a little red on the wing in the second picture (if you know what you're looking for).

The cedar waxwings arrive in flocks of 30-50 birds in January or February. We don't usally see them in December or March, and never in the warmer months. At those times, they are living in the north, well into Canada.

Cedar waxwingI have heard that cedar waxwings can sometimes be seen lined up on the branches of pyracantha bushes cheerfully handing berries down the line to each other so everybody gets some. I have never actually seen this, though when we had pyracantha bushes, I certainly saw them strip a bush in a couple of days.

It is also said that they sometimes get quite drunk eating berries that have been frozen and thawed and have begun to ferment.

The cedar waxwings are here right now, so it feels like we are turning the corner on winter.

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