10:53 p.m. - 2005-11-25
The beautiful Maven has made a Critter Corner request! Here it is: The Cedar Waxwing, courtesy of www.fnal.gov
This lovely species is the most specialized fruit-eating bird in North America! Cedar waxwings(Bombycillidae cedrorum)look for fleshy fruits high in sugar. These birds are social throughout the year, and will flock together in groups of 30 to 100 when temporary sources of fruit are available. I wonder if the birds Maven saw swarming were eating some type of fruit down by the Collegeville river?
These birds are easily recognizable by their smooth appearance, which is why I thought they were originally called "wax wing". But I just learned that there are little red waxy appendages on the end of their wings! These increase in number as the bird ages, and scientists suspect they might make the birds more attractive to mates.
These fruit-eaters are about six to seven inches tall, with a wingspan of nine to twelve inches. They have a crest on their head, with black beaks and feet, and that cool black "eye mask"! Both sexes look the same, while juveniles are paler in color and more blotchy. You'll notice yellow bands around the tail feathers. An interesting feature of eastern cedar waxwings is the appearance of orange tail stripes. Scientists discovered that an alien type of honeysuckle berry creates the corresponding color, which first appeared around 1950.
Some fruit-eating birds spit out seeds, but cedar waxwings pass them in their stools.
Waxwings can be found from Southern Alaska down through northern GA, across the US to northern CA. They proliferate around the Great Lakes, and some birds stay in place year round, although they will migrate as far south as Panama. This migration occurs from August through October.
The habitat of waxwings varies; they live in open woods, old fields, farms, orchards and suburban gardens. In the winter cedar waxwings enjoy juniper berries, and other fruit remaining on trees.
Fun fact: R does not like most fruit! I tease him about it.
Upon arriving back in their home territory in May, cedar waxwings pair up. One of their mating rituals is to pass a fruit back and forth! (Back, back, forth and forth!) Because cedar waxwings depend on ripe fruit to survive, they are some of the last birds to roost. Nesting occurs from June to August. As the mother incubates the eggs, the papa waxwing brings her food, and protects the nest. Once the eggies hatch, the parents feed the hatchlings insects for the first few days, but then switch their diet to fruit.
Fun fact: Cedar waxwings are vulnerable to alcohol intoxication and death from eating fermented fruit!
Doing this writeup makes me really want to put up a birdfeeder! A cedar waxwing would be so pretty to see against the background of our newly fallen snow! Maven, send some waxwings our way!
p.s. I updated to Gold Membership, so expect me to upload some fabulous pictures soon!