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, November 5, 2014

Waxwing birds have waxy red feather tips

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.

If the berries have fermented, the birds can actually get drunk. But their digestive systems are quick and the seeds of berries are eliminated within 45 minutes.

Waxwings do not get those red waxy tips until their second fall. The red waxy drops at the end of their wings 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. 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.

How can you attract Cedar Waxwings to your back yard? Planting native trees and shrubs that produce lots of berries can be irresistible to waxwings. However landscaping may not be an option right now so a heated bird bath or a bath with a de-icer could also attract Cedar Waxwings to your yard this winter.

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
Keep your eyes open for Bohemian Waxwings! http://goo.gl/Bu67BV