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, April 17, 2011

How to Attract Cedar Waxwings

I had a momma and 2 baby wax wings at my home last year here in Van Wert County OH. I had never seen them here before. I would like to know if they might return and what I can do to attract and keep them coming back each year. Thank you.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) eating berriesImage via Wikipedia
The Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) is mostly frugivorous or fruit eater. Berries play a large role in the cedar waxwing's breeding, social and migratory behavior. Native berry-producing trees and shrubs planted in your yard can attract waxwings and will often encourage them to nest in your area. Some plants that bear small fruits are dogwood, serviceberry, cedar, juniper, hawthorn, and winterberry.

Our Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store is surrounded by a variety of crab apple trees that ripen at different times of the year and attracts flocks of waxwings year-round. Waxwings also catch and eat flying insects on the wing or glean vegetation for crawling bugs.

You might hear the waxwings before you see them. They have a very distinctive thin, high-pitched warbled "zeee" or "zeeet" call that is hard to forget. They are very social and usually fly in large flocks and often nest in loose clusters of a dozen or so nests.

Cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) passing a...Image via Wikipedia
They don’t begin to nest until later in the summer when there is plenty of fruit to feed the babies. Cedar Waxwing pairs perform a wonderful courtship dance before mating where the male approaches the female and hops gently forward to offer the female a berry. When the female accepts the berry she’ll dance away and then dance back and give the berry back to the male. They repeat this a few times until the female eats the gift.

Female waxwings do almost all the nest building. Construction of the bulky cup-shaped nest takes a week and may require more than 2,500 individual trips with twigs, grasses, cattail down, blossoms, string, animal hair, and similar nesting materials.

Usually 5 or 6 eggs are laid and the female incubates them for two weeks. The eggs are bluish grey with irregular, dark brown splotches. Both parents feed the young which fledge or leave the nest after two weeks.

The nestlings stay close to the nest and are fed by the parents for another 6 to 10 days, but after that, they split off to join a flock of other juvenile birds.

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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Thank you for the quick reply. As I did a little more web searching I found a migration map.  My area, NW Ohio, is colored as year round so I just wanted to make sure that they stay here all year.

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Anonymous said...

Very interesting - thanks!

beth said...

Do cedar waxwings stay in the area once they learn to fly? I nursed one for 3 days and put it out on a tree branch where it's mother would come to feed it. After the last day it disappeared :-( and I was wondering if it stays nearby or does it fly away? It was a beautiful experience.