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.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Gray bird with black mask and yellow tail tip

Yesterday was such a gray day, some people might have called it dreary. But gray isn't always a depressing color especially when it is worn by birds. When I looked out the window at the big thunder clouds looming, I was so happy to see a flurry of gray birds in the crabapple tree instead! Dark-eyed Juncos and Cedar Waxwings were finishing off the last of the fruit left by the cardinals.

Some waxwings were fluttering at the edges of the branches to pluck the food from the tree and then zipping off. Others were hanging upside down to reach those extra tasty apples just out of reach. They kept hopping around from branch to branch, moving so much that it was hard for me to focus on just one.

I could have watched them all day. The gray Cedar Waxwings with a black mask and yellow, lightening tipped tail feathers seemed very appropriate on a day forecast for rainstorms. I see waxwings or rather hear them in the trees surrounding the store about as much as I see robins, which is frequently during the spring, summer, and fall, and occasionally during the winter. 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. The 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 most of the year.
An older bird with many wax wing tips
After about an hour of eating a few took the time to digest their meal. That is when I got to see and compare their red-tipped wax on their wings. The small red tips on the secondary feathers of some birds are made out of waxy secretions.
Waxwings do not get those red waxy tips until their second fall
The purpose of these tips are still unknown. One study found older birds, had a higher number of tips, than younger birds. Both male and females have these tips and because they tend to mate with birds that have a similar number as them, it's thought it might signal to other birds their age and status to help find the appropriate mate choice.
Related Articles:
Bird of the Week: Cedar Waxwing http://goo.gl/gwQma2
Red Maple flower make a tasty treat for Cedar Waxwings http://goo.gl/Lo72NS
Cedar Waxwing Nesting Season Begins in the Summer http://goo.gl/F3erQl
What birds eat apples? https://goo.gl/XcCwtL 

Cardinals and Crabapples https://goo.gl/3639Nm
How to Attract Cedar Waxwings https://goo.gl/5JeHnn

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