Bird of the Month September 2019

Cedar Waxwing  

Bombycilla cedrorum


If there is a bird that can cause an observer to gasp in delight when the binoculars come into focus, it has to be the Cedar Waxwing. This bird and sexes are similar, is extraordinarily beautiful. Its coloration isn’t wild or crazy but the colors blend and complement like few other birds. Head, chest and upper back are a pinkish-tan blending to a yellow belly and darker wings. The crown of the head is accented with a crest below which is a rakish black mask over the eyes and a black chin separated from the mask by a thin white line. The wings have waxy bright red tips and the rump and tail blend from the tan to gray. The tip of the tail is banded in yellow.

Behavior and HabitatCedar Waxwings inhabit many types of forested and shrubland habitats. They do prefer to be around water and shrubs that produce abundant berries.

Cedar Waxwings live on berries much of the year. This is unusual for a bird and few species can handle berries as a staple. Chokecherries, crabapples, serviceberries, elderberries, currants, hawthorn berries, honeysuckle berries and many more are all eaten, usually swallowed whole. I once watched Cedar Waxwings swallow crabapples that were nearly three-quarters of an inch in diameter. It nearly made me gag, but they seemed to do just fine. Once in awhile, berries can be a detriment though. If the berries are well past ripeness and are beginning to ferment, the waxwings can become intoxicated and even die.

Cedar Waxwings are social birds. I have seen flocks of several hundred, mixed with Bohemian Waxwings, descend on the Russian Olive trees at Market Lake and pick the trees completely free of berries.

The female Cedar Waxwing does most of the nest building, making as many as 2,500 trips to bring the materials to shape a rough five-inch cup and line it with soft material. The pair will raise a brood of 2-6 offspring and in the right conditions may have two broods a year.

When fruit isn’t available, Cedar Waxwings are adept hunters, capturing insect prey on the wing.

You can attract Cedar Waxwings to your yard by planting lots of berry-producing shrubs such as those mentioned above. The more you plant, the better the chances of attracting them.

Similar Species

There really is only one bird that resembles a Cedar Waxwing and that is the Bohemian Waxwing, a close cousin. The Bohemian Waxwing is slightly larger, lacks the yellow belly and shows more white in the wingtips. They are also only occasional visitors to Camas NWR.

When and where found at Camas NWR  

According to the Camas NWR Bird List, the Cedar Waxwing is an uncommon visitor spring through fall and only an occasional visitor during winter. Uncommon means that it is present but you may not find it. Look for Cedar Waxwings anywhere berry shrubs or Russian Olive trees occur or watch for them hunting insects over the marshes.


“Cedar Waxwing populations were stable between 1966 and 2015, and in some areas showed increases, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 52 million, with 70% spending some part of the year in the U.S., 55% in Canada, and 18% wintering in Mexico. The species rates a 6 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Cedar Waxwing s not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List. The increases in Cedar Waxwing populations are probably in part because of reversion of fields to shrublands and forests and the use of berry trees such as mountain ash in landscaping. Cedar Waxwings are vulnerable to window collisions as well as being struck by cars as the birds feed on fruiting trees along roadsides.”

Text by Terry Thomas. Source:

Photo by Terry Thomas.