Monday, May 25, 2009

Cedar Waxwing

I spotted this pair of Cedar Waxwings, Bombycilla cedrorum, almost straight above me in a dead Red Pine tree. When surprises like this happen, I almost can't believe it! This is heart-pounding stuff! Okay, I had to buckle down and get the shots off. Autofocus was going beserk with those intervening branches. I knocked off the AF and slowed down, stayed still, and got off all the photos I could. Then I realized that these birds weren't that spooky so I moved around a bit.

There was a good bit of behavior where it looked like one had its beak in the other's. My Audubon guide tells me that they are very social and like to pass berries around, sometimes down a long line of them!

Waxwings are exclusively fruit eaters and have been known to become intoxicated from eating fermenting berries. No, this one's not staggering off the limb but launching up to another branch.

And here's where the waxwing gets it's name--those hard, red, wax-like tips on the secondary feathers.

In this shot, I noticed a curious little hook on the tip of the beak.

I have recently observed what I had thought to be Mourning Doves in flight, but due to their agile gliding and cornering, I suspect I have been witnessing waxwings. The behavior just didn't seem quite right for a dove.

Most of this Waxwing information comes directly from The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds Eastern Edition.


  1. Beautiful shots! Years ago I had a huge flock of cedar waxwings that would hang out in the sumac bushes, I didn't have a zoom lens at the time and never got a decent photo; but in the 12 years we've lived here on the lake, I've never seen any cedar waxwings- not a one! I thought the blueberry bushes on our shoreline would attract them- but no! I think the fact that they pass berries to one another is just about the cutest thing ever.
    When you publish your bird field guide (!), these photos should definitely be included- once again you have captured not only the birds but their personalities.

  2. Thanks, Gretchen. :-)

    I appreciate the mention of personalities. Great feedback. This has me thinking more about what gives an edge to certain photographs.