Cedar Waxwings, a New Year, a New Yardbird

by Larry Jordan on January 1, 2013

Cedar Waxwing

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 Waxwings

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

which placed them in a rather dark environment for photography.

Cedar Waxwing

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

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

Cedar Waxwing

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

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

Cedar Waxwing

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

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

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

another venturing out on the end of a branch…

Cedar Waxwing

and this one sneaking around in the shadows.

Cedar Waxwing

They were understandably being coy as an American Robin (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.

To see more great birds from around the world, check out The Bird D’pot and Wild Bird Wednesday!

References: 1Birds of North America Online

TexWisGirl January 1, 2013 at 9:41 am

they are so handsome! i love catching sight of them here!

Wilde About Birds January 1, 2013 at 10:10 am

Lovely birds to see and great pictures of them. From Findlay

Eileen January 1, 2013 at 11:32 am

Larry, great post. I just love the Waxwings. They are beautiful birds. you got some awesome photos too. I wish you all the best in 2013, Happy New Year!

Karen January 1, 2013 at 11:54 am

A fabulous series! The first shot is awesome!

Gail January 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Larry, you provided so much wonderful information on one of my favorite birds! And beautiful images! The only one I saw last year was lying dead in my yard, right outside a window. I think he flew into the glass. 🙁 Hopefully, I’ll get to see more of them this spring under better conditions. Good to know they like fruit. I wonder if I could lure them with fresh cut fruit since the only fruit trees I have are satsumas?

Dian Miller January 1, 2013 at 1:34 pm


I love how your New Year got started! I have only seen Waxwings 3X in my whole birding life. I can remember all 3 – when and where.
Nice photos


Gemma Wiseman January 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm

The waxwing’s feathers seem so soft and sleek and smooth! Beautiful series of photos!

Mick January 1, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Beautiful birds and its always good to have some new yard birds.

Jeremy Medina January 1, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Wow, awesome yard bird Larry. Great photos too! I’ve only seen them once in Tucson and that was a rare sight.

Stewart M January 2, 2013 at 2:26 am

That is a superb set of pictures – what a garden bird!

I’ll just have to make do with parrots!

Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW.

Stewart M – Melbourne

Boom & Gary January 2, 2013 at 11:27 am

Love all the waxwings!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Margaret M. January 2, 2013 at 11:56 am

Beautiful photos! I am no plant expert, but I enjoy looking up the local plants in lower Placer Co. I believe the berry bushes you asked for comments about may be coffeeberry bushes (Frangula californica), which have leaves with lighter undersides and prominent veins.

Dawn January 2, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Great photo series and info Larry..thanks!

pattisj January 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm

They are strikingly beautiful birds. One showed up with a flock of starlings in our backyard this year.

Neil January 2, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Great series Happy New Year.

Mary Howell Cromer January 3, 2013 at 5:11 pm

For those whom have followed my blog for long know that Cedar Waxwings are amongst my top 10 favorite birds. These images are really wonderful! This year, I totally missed their passing through my area, other than a very dreary rain filled day, and those images done in a rather different way, shall be presented next week. Happy New Year~

Phil January 4, 2013 at 5:30 am

A number of great shots there Larry. I’m so jealous because i never caught up with our Bohemian Waxwings this winter. Those berries look suspiciously like a species of cotoneaster which is very common here, but I don’t know how widespread it is in other continents or the scientific name. I guess if Waxwings eat it, they will spread the plant many, many miles.

Sam Brunson January 4, 2013 at 6:30 am

Excellent photos! I had my first Cedar Waxwings last year during Spring migration. They unfortunately only stayed for a day, but it was great getting to see them.

Anni January 4, 2013 at 7:07 am

Such wonderful, beautiful birds. And you’ve managed to capture them in all their glory AND their daily routines. Outstanding.

Sorry, I am a bit late in paying a visit to you since most of this past week was taking down holiday decorations and catching up on 2 weeks of laundry. Now that our company is gone, I am having a grand ol’ time viewing such fantastic birding posts!!

thanks for linking up at the Bird D’Pot!!

Carole M. January 5, 2013 at 9:07 pm

such a handsome bird and wonderful photographs you’ve collected Larry. Then the sweet finale with the robin; equally beautiful birds

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