Cedar Waxwing

Bombycilla cedrorum
A Cedar Waxwing specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

The smaller of the two North American waxwings, the Cedar Waxwing (7 1/4 inches) is also brighter and more colorful than its northern relative, the Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus). This species may be identified by its light brown body and crest, yellow flanks, black face mask, and red waxy-tipped feathers on the wings. Male and female Cedar Waxwings are similar at all seasons. The Cedar Waxwing breeds across Northern Canada and the northern half of the U.S. This species migrates southward in winter, when it may be found in across the United States, Mexico, and Central America. Cedar Waxwings tend to be highly nomadic during winter, moving in flocks in search of food. Thus, while this species may be found all year in north-central portions of the United States, waxwings wintering in these areas are not necessarily the same birds that bred there the summer before, and are more likely birds from further north. Cedar Waxwings breed in woodland interspersed with clearings with small fruit-bearing shrubs. Waxwings primarily consume fruits and berries, and this habitat type supports this species’ oddly specific dietary requirements. In winter, waxwings may be found wherever berries, particularly those of cedars, are plentiful. Often, Cedar Waxwings are most easily observed foraging in trees and shrubs. Depending on the location of fruit on the tree, these birds may be high in the canopy, low to the ground, or anywhere in between. Cedar Waxwings may also be observed undertaking short, straight flights between trees or longer flights between feeding areas or on migration. This species is primarily active during the day.

DC Information

A common migrant and occasional winter visitor, from late August to mid-May. Often seen in flocks at suburban feeders, also in brushy agricultural areas. Sexes are alike.

Specimen Information

Of the two birds in this exhibit, the lower one has the iconic red-tipped feathers in its wings.   This is the mark of older males and females.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC37648 Bombycilla cedrorum (Cedar Waxwing)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC37652 Bombycilla cedrorum (Cedar Waxwing)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC11462 Bombycilla cedrorum (Cedar Waxwing)