About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cedar Waxwing: The Older the Bird, the Showier the Wax Red Tips

Hi Sarah,
Saturday morning I noticed some birds in the juneberry tree outside my son's room. When I investigated, I saw a couple of Cedar Waxwings
harvesting berries and immediately grabbed my camera. Here are a couple of shots.
~Mike Grimm, Fowlerville

Beautiful! Usually the first indication of Cedar Waxwings in the area is their distinct high pitched "bzeee" call. Then you’ll see flocks of about 40 birds flying in a tight group around fruit bearing plants stripping the berries in minutes. The high pitched screeech is hard to forget. Thank you for sharing. I enjoy all your photos.

The Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) is mostly frugivorous. That means it is a fruit eater. Berries play a large role in the cedar waxwing's breeding, social and migratory behavior. Cedar waxwings will perch on a branch and pluck berries or they will hover in the air and grab berries.
The name "waxwing" comes from the waxy red secretions found on the birds wingtips. The red waxy drops are actually flattened extensions of the feather shafts colored by astaxanthin, a carotenoid pigment. Both males and females have the red waxy tips on their wings but only after their second fall. The older the bird, the more showy the red tips.
Studies show that the birds only mate with birds within their own age range and the amount of wax on the wing may be how the birds determine who is in their mate group.

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