Welcome to the Birds of North America Online!
Welcome to BNA Online, the leading source of life history information for North American breeding birds. This free, courtesy preview is just the first of 14 articles that provide detailed life history information including Distribution, Migration, Habitat, Food Habits, Sounds, Behavior and Breeding. Written by acknowledged experts on each species, there is also a comprehensive bibliography of published research on the species.
A subscription is needed to access the remaining articles for this and any other species. Subscription rates start as low as $5 USD for 30 days of complete access to the resource. To subscribe, please visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store.
If you are already a current subscriber, you will need to sign in with your login information to access BNA normally.
Subscriptions are available for as little as $5 for 30 days of full access! If you would like to subscribe to BNA Online, just visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store.
One of only three species worldwide in the family Bombycillidae, the Cedar Waxwing is named for the red, waxlike tips on the secondary flight-feathers of adult birds. Sugary fruits dominate the diet of this bird, especially in winter. During warmer months, Cedar Waxwings glean insects from vegetation or snatch them from the air in sallies from exposed perches, often near streams or ponds. This is a true frugivore, assimilating nutrients from fruit pulp and passing seeds intact back to the environment.
Many aspects of the natural history of the Cedar Waxwing reflect its dietary specialization on sugary fruits, unpredictable in space and time: e.g., its flocking and nomadic movements, and lower levels of return to former breeding sites than other passerines. In addition, Cedar Waxwings breed late in the year, coincident with the availability of summer-ripening fruits. The sociality of individuals within winter flocks and the lack of territoriality during the breeding season also are associated with the reliance of this species on locally superabundant fruit crops. Voracious feeding on fruits by large flocks and a high degree of mobility make this waxwing an especially effective disperser of the seeds of fruiting plants.
Cedar Waxwing populations have increased during the last 20 years over much of North America, and appear to be expanding into new regions. Several factors may have fostered this growth in range and numbers: the creation of edge habitats conducive to fruiting trees and shrubs, especially as farmlands regenerate to forests; the planting of fruiting trees and shrubs in rural and urban areas; and, perhaps, the reduction of hard pesticides in many forms of agriculture.