Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cedar Waxwings

Recently the Cedar Waxwings have been getting in large groups and invading area towns.  The other day we had about 30 feeding on left-over chokecherry berries in my back yard.   Here is an article I recently wrote for a newspaper where it was printed.

Many wild animals have learned to adapt to urban environments. Coyotes live in Los Angeles sewers, kestrels and peregrine falcons nest on apartment ledges and ravens raid garbage cans throughout America’s cities.

Why not one of the most beautiful birds – the Cedar waxwing?

In the cities of southeastern Idaho put together several large fir trees with some berry producing bushes nearby and chances are the waxwings have staked out their homestead.

Hard to see and locate in the thick needles and leaves of mature trees, their soft call in the mid morning and early evening are hard to miss. Careful observation will locate these soft voiced, soft feathered beauties.

Their song is not melodic, but a distinctive buzzy, high-pitched trill. Once you learn to recognize this sound, you will hear it usually before you see the birds.

This year pairs of waxwings have nested in Rexburg and surrounding towns picking off ants and bees attracted to sap producing conifers. Cedar waxwings are late nesters, often waiting until berries as well as insects are available for the young.

Young waxwings are fed insects before they become berry eaters. Adults can be seen picking bees and other insects off leaves and pine needles and feeding them to their young.

They love to invade raspberry patches as well as currant and gooseberry bushes.

Waxwings get their name from small, red, wax-like appendages on the secondary feathers on their wings. A beautiful yellow band runs along the end of the tail and mask-like face sets off their striking tan plumage. In the eastern part of the United States, these birds have started feeding on an ornamental honeysuckle berry that turns the yellow band orange.

These birds are year around resident of Idaho where they feed on many different berries, flowers, and insects, with cedar and juniper fruit dominating their menu during the winter. During the winter of 2008-09, cedar waxwings were seen in large flocks along the Henrys Fork of the Snake River every month of the year. Wintering flocks invade the Russian Olive bushes at Market Lake and Mud Lake.

They are probably the most specialized fruit-eating bird in America. Because they often feed on fermented fruit, they become vulnerable to intoxication and death from eating rotting berries.

Fall is an excellent time to view these birds as they take full advantage of fruit trees and berry bushes loaded with fruit.

Waxwings are a social bird, sometimes congregating in groups of 100 or more. These groups will travel from place to place looking for a crop of fruit or berries and will feed until the berries are gone. While nesting, waxwings will pair up away from large groups only to become pare of a large social group after the young can fly long distances.

Residents of Rexburg, St. Anthony and Ashton do not have to travel further than their backyard to view these elegant birds. Crab apple trees and other fruit bearing trees bring these beautiful birds right to your window.

But cars parked under such trees get the “leftovers” created by these berry eating machines.


Kcalpesh said...

Are those two super-heroes? I mean, super-birds, I mean birds dressed as super-heroes.... Beautiful capture!!

- Pixellicious Photos

Sunny said...

What beautiful birds and excellent article, so interesting.

We don't have Cedar Waxwings but the Winter Robins love our Holly Berries so I'm quite familiar with 'leftovers'.
Sunny :)

Roses and Lilacs said...

They are indeed elegant birds. The masks give them kind of a mysterious appearance. We see a few here during migration and one nested in my yard a few years ago.

Robert Mortensen said...

A couple of years ago I took my wife and kids to old Fort Boise to see the Spring migration of Snow Geese. The geese weren't so cooperative that morning so we drove around a bit looking for other birds and wildlife. I saw a huge flock of Cedar Waxwings in to trees overhanging the dirt road. I pulled up right underneath of them and opened the sunroof for better viewing. Huge mistake! Some of the grossest droppings started raining on into our hair and into the family minivan. My wife was not pleased. Fun times!

I always love to read your blog Bill. Keep up the good work!

Radka said...

Hello, you have a very nice blog, full of pretty pictures, I wish a nice day, Radka.

Veronica Wald said...

Very nice!!

Jann said...

The waxwing is one of my favorite birds...really nice photos! I have yet to snap one w/ a berry.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Bill: I love to see this bird and Ilove their mask.

lisa mertins said...

hi bill, once in our minnesota yard, i was lucky enough to see a couple of these gorgeous, dapper birds. thank you for the story and the photos!

Grayquill said...

Intersting Post - I learned a thing or six.

eileeninmd said...

Great photos of the Waxwings, they are so pretty.
Nice post.