Garden Visitor: The Waxwing
Two species, the cedar waxwing and the Bohemian waxwing, make appearances throughout most of North America. Very similar in looks, males and females of both species bear a soft grayish-brown coloring, with a yellow band at the tip of their tails. Like the Northern cardinal, the waxwing's head is distinguished by a dark mask and bib, and also a pointed crest. Cedar waxwings reach only about 6 inches long, while Bohemian waxwings grow larger and heftier, with white and yellow patches on their wings.
Cedar waxwings travel across the U.S. and Canada, in migrations that are irregular and unpredictable. The spend the summer primarily in the northern half of their range, moving to the southern U.S. in the winter. Bohemian waxwings nest in the far north in Canada and Alaska, heading west to the Rocky Mountain states in the winter. They may sometimes join with cedar waxwing flocks.
Habits and Behavior
Waxwings generally travel in flocks of a dozen or more individuals. The flocks may at times grow to dozens, even
Up to 84% of the waxwing’s diet consists of fruit. During times of the year when berries aren’t readily available, waxwings will eat insects, sap or flower petals. Insects are also a favored food during the nesting season, since the adults feed their hatchlings insects for the first few days of their life.
|Waxwings travel in flocks|
Nesting and Young
Waxwings pair off in summer, when they build large cup-shaped nests in orchards or shade trees. Bohemian waxwings most often make their nests in conifers, up to 50 feet off the ground. Waxwings usually produce four to six spotted eggs of pale blue or green.
Attracting Waxwings to Your Yard
You can lure waxwings to your property by planting multiple types of berry-producing trees or shrubs. Besides cherries, waxwings are fond of eating mulberries, holly berries, crabapples, elderberries, cedar berries and chokecherry. Other plants providing food and/or shelter for waxwings include serviceberries, hackberries, hawthorns, dogwoods, bayberries, Virginia creeper, spruce, blackberries and viburnums.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Cedar Waxwing
Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Bohemian Waxwing
Birdscaping Your Garden by George Adams
Attracting Birds to Your Backyard by Sally Roth
National Geographic Reference Atlas to the Birds of North America