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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Jun 30, 2011

Winged nomads move on, their cousins move in

Bohemian Waxwings frolicking during a winter storm
Beginning this past January I was presented with many opportunities to take some wonderful photos of the Bohemian waxwing, because these birds graced our neighborhood with their presence for several months.  Bohemian waxwings are nomadic in their behavior in that they follow the food source and have no specific home environment.  Guess my neighborhood has a huge food source which allowed them to stay for so long.  Bohemian Waxwings typically fly north in spring however, as they prefer the cooler environments of northern Europe, Asia and North America.  When these birds left in early spring, their cousins the Cedar waxwing moved in to take their place not long after.

While Cedar waxwings confine their nomadic wanderings to North and south America, like the Bohemian waxwing, their diet consists mostly of fruit and berries during non breeding seasons.   They too are known for falling drunkenly from a perch due to their greedy consumption of fruit.   During breeding season however, they consume mostly insects, although fruit is still a part of their diet.  Cedar waxwings love the sound of running water, so if you wish to attract these beautiful birds to your yard, all you need to do is add fruit bearing plants and a water fountain or bird bath.

Cedar Waxwing
Both species of waxwing have small patches of bright red feathers on their wings, which look like drops of  red wax.  Hence the name Waxwing.  They both  have yellow tipped tail feathers, as well as a black mask covering their eyes and a crest on their head.   However, otherwise the coloring of each species is quite different. 

Cedar Waxwing back view

The Cedar Waxwing has a yellow belly and white under tail coverts.  This bird is mainly cinnamon brown in color on the chest, throat, all of the head and crest.  The color then blends to soft gray on the back.  The Bohemian has a white belly and reddish orange under tail coverts, while his chest is mostly gray blending into cinnamon brown at the throat, face and crest, but the back of the head and the remainder of his body is soft gray in color.

Bohemian Waxwing
Cedar waxwing

The Bohemian waxwing has more red spots on the wing than the Cedar waxwing, and also has yellow and white wingtips.   Both of these colors are lacking on the Cedar waxwing's wing tips.  The Cedar waxwing however does have a small patch of white running along his back on both sides where the wings meet.  The male and female of both species have the same coloring, unlike other bird species where only the male sports the bright plumage.

Flock of Bohemian Waxwings
Pair of Cedar Waxwing

The Cedar waxwing is not easily seen during the breeding season, although you will hear their distinct, high pitched whistles.  In the fall, like their cousins the Bohemian waxwings, they fly in large flocks to seek out and follow the food supply.  Both species share their food, and will pass it along if it is in a place on a branch that is hard to reach.   Mated pairs will pass food or objects, such as flower petals back and forth. As you can see, these species are highly social in behavior and watching their behavior is a distinct joy.


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