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.
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.