Cedar Waxwings, a New Year, a New Yardbird

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Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) are seen here in Northern California every winter, but this year, they were seen in my yard for the first time! Click on photos for full sized images.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

The mainstay of the Cedar Waxwing is fleshy fruits and during the winter their diet is almost completely fruit. This dependance on a fruit diet accounts for much of this bird’s migratory and wandering behavior. Range Map courtesy of NatureServe Explorer.

Cedar Waxwing Range Map

These birds visited my yard for the fruits of my Photinia bushes…

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

which placed them in a rather dark environment for photography.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

However, after filling up on berries they would fly over to the oak trees to roost and preen in what sunshine there was to be had.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

As the sun rose a bit higher in the sky and broke through the clouds, the Cedar Waxwings showed more color.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Waxwings get their name from the red, waxlike tips on the secondary flight-feathers of adult birds like the one seen in this photo.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Immature birds like this one, don’t attain the red tips until their second fall.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

These red appendages on secondaries of Cedar Waxwings increase in number and size with the bird’s age. This bird with only a few short red tips foraging in the photinia is probably a young adult and, when the time comes, is most likely to breed with another bird of the same age1.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Pairs of older birds nest earlier and raise more young than do immature birds, suggesting that this plumage character is an important signal in mate choice and social organization1.

As I watched and photographed this flock of about fifteen Cedar Waxwings they would also hawk insects from the treetops…

Cedar Waxwing Hawking Insects

and occasionally visit the waterfall and pond to drink.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

After counting about 1,200 American Robins flying over as I photographed these waxwings in my back yard, I stopped by Turtle Bay the following day to see what birds were out and about.

Adjacent to Turtle Bay is the Redding Convention Center which has some red berry bush plantings nearby (if anyone knows what type of bush this is please leave a comment).

I snapped a few shots of these Cedar Waxwings there. This one waiting its turn in a maple tree…

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

another venturing out on the end of a branch…

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

and this one sneaking around in the shadows.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

They were understandably being coy as an (Turdus migratorius) arrived at the berry bushes and began chasing the Waxwings off.

American Robin With Berries

You know, Robins like berries too! But that’s another story.

Larry Jordan

Larry Jordan

is an avid birder and amateur photographer living on the Pacific Flyway near the Central Valley of Northern California. He is a board member of his local Audubon Society and is a bird and wildlife conservationist. Larry contributes to several wildlife conservation organizations and is a BirdLife International "Species Champion." He is also Habitat Manager for the Burrowing Owl Conservation Network, an organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Western Burrowing Owl population in the United States. Larry has been blogging about birds since September of 2007 at TheBirdersReport.com

Larry Jordan

Larry Jordan

Larry Jordan is an avid birder and amateur photographer living on the Pacific Flyway near the Central Valley of Northern California. He is a board member of his local Audubon Society and is a bird and wildlife conservationist. Larry contributes to several wildlife conservation organizations and is a BirdLife International "Species Champion." He is also Habitat Manager for the Burrowing Owl Conservation Network, an organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Western Burrowing Owl population in the United States. Larry has been blogging about birds since September of 2007 at TheBirdersReport.com

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atdahl
atdahl

Great post Larry. These are one of our favorite backyard birds (we leave East of Sacramento) as well but we only see them once every few years when our “fruitless” pears actually produce some fruit. There are flocks of them and American Robins in the trees at work right now pooping on all the cars. They seem to travel together a lot from what I have seen.

Lori Robinson

I love these photos and the info but was kept in suspense about WHERE your yard is located. Had no idea until I read your bio. [email protected]

Ken Billington

Larry, outstanding collection of waxwings – wish we had a few of these in our yard!

kevbirder
kevbirder

The Cedar Waxwing bushes appear to be a Cotoneaster. Maybe Cotoneaster Lacteus.