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Overview

Brief Summary

Bombycilla cedrorum

The smaller of the two North American waxwings, the Cedar Waxwing 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.

Threat Status: Least concern

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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDS: southeastern Alaska east to Newfoundland and south to northern California, northern Utah, western Oklahoma, southern Illinois, northern Alabama, northern Georgia, and northwestern South Carolina. WINTERS: locally from southern Canada and the northern U.S. south to central Panama, irregularly to the Bahamas and Greater Antilles, casually to northern South America.

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Geographic Range

Cedar waxwings (Bombycillia_cedrorum) are found only in North America. Their breeding range extends throughout the southern half of Canada and the northern half of the United States. The winter range includes the United States, Mexico and Central America as far south as Panama. They also winter in the Caribbean region. Many birds in the northern United States and extreme southern Canada are year-round residents.

Vagrant cedar waxwings are occasionally seen in Iceland and Great Britain.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Witmer, M., D. Mountjoy, L. Elliot. 1997. Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). Pp. 1-28 in A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 309. Philadelphia, PA: The Academy of Natural Sciences and Washington DC: The American Ornithologists Union.
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Range

North America; winters to n S America and Greater Antilles.

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Geographic Range

Cedar waxwings (Bombycillia cedrorum) are found only in North America. Their breeding range extends throughout the southern half of Canada and the northern half of the United States. The winter range includes the United States, Mexico and Central America as far south as Panama. They also winter in the Caribbean region. Many birds in the northern United States and extreme southern Canada are year-round residents.

Vagrant cedar waxwings are occasionally seen in Iceland and Great Britain.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Witmer, M., D. Mountjoy, L. Elliot. 1997. Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). Pp. 1-28 in A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 309. Philadelphia, PA: The Academy of Natural Sciences and Washington DC: The American Ornithologists Union.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Cedar waxwings are sleek birds with silky plumage. They are approximately 15.5 cm long and weigh about 32 g. Adults have grayish-brown plumage with a pale yellow breast and belly. They also have bright red wax-like spots on their wings and a bright yellow band at the tip of their tail. Cedar waxwings have a crest on top of their head and black mask around their eyes.

Male and female waxwings look similar. Females may be slightly bigger than males during the breeding season. Young cedar waxwings look similar to adults, but are greyer. They also have streaks on their belly and a much smaller crest than adults. Young cedar waxwings do not have the red spots on their wings either.

Average mass: 32 g.

Average length: 15.5 cm.

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; ornamentation

Average mass: 30 g.

  • Robbins, C., B. Bruun, H. Zim. 1966. Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Inc.
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Physical Description

Cedar waxwings are sleek birds with silky plumage. They are approximately 15.5 cm in length and weigh about 32 g. Adults have a grayish-brown plumage with pale yellow on the breast and belly. The secondary wing feathers are tipped with red wax-like droplets, and the tail is square with a bright yellow band at the tip. Cedar waxwings have a crest and a black mask edged with white.

Male and female waxwings are similar in appearance, but males have a slightly darker chin patch. Females may also be slightly heavier than males during the breeding season. Juvenile cedar waxwings look similar to adults, but are greyer overall, have streaking on their underparts and a much smaller crest and lack the red tips on their secondary feathers.

Average mass: 32 g.

Average length: 15.5 cm.

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; ornamentation

Average mass: 30 g.

  • Robbins, C., B. Bruun, H. Zim. 1966. Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Inc.
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Size

Length: 18 cm

Weight: 33 grams

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Diagnostic Description

Differs from the bohemian waxwing in smaller size, browner plumage (vs. grayish), white undertail coverts (vs. cinnamon), and lack of white and yellow markings in wing.

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Type Information

Type for Bombycilla cedrorum
Catalog Number: USNM 381593
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Birds
Sex/Stage: Male;
Preparation: Skin: Whole
Collector(s): T. Burleigh & H. Peters
Year Collected: 1943
Locality: Searston, Newfoundland, Canada, North America
  • Type: Burleigh. August 2, 1963. Proc. Biol. Soc. Washington. 76: 179.
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Type for Bombycilla cedrorum
Catalog Number: USNM 419709
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Birds
Sex/Stage: Male;
Preparation: Skin: Whole
Collector(s): T. Burleigh
Year Collected: 1951
Locality: Headquarters, Clearwater, Idaho, United States, North America
  • Type: Burleigh. August 2, 1963. Proc. Biol. Soc. Washington. 76: 178.
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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: A wide variety of open woodland types, either deciduous or coniferous, forest edge, second growth, parks, orchards and gardens; in migration and winter occurring wherever there are trees (AOU 1983).

Nests in tree or shrub, 2-15 m above ground, in fork or on outer horizontal limb (Terres 1980).

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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Cedar waxwings nest in open woodlands (deciduous, coniferous and mixed) or fields. They like areas with small trees and shrubs for nesting and food. They often nest in riparian areas, which have shrubs and trees for nesting and fruit and emerging aquatic insects. They also use farms, orchards, conifer plantations, and gardens.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural ; riparian

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Cedar waxwings nest in open woodlands (deciduous, coniferous and mixed) or oldfield habitats. They prefer habitats with numerous small trees and shrubs for nesting and food. They frequently inhabit riparian areas, which provide nesting shrubs and trees, fruits and emerging aquatic insects, but also use farms, orchards, conifer plantations, and suburban gardens.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural ; riparian

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Migration is not usually a regular north-south movement (Terres 1980). Arrives in Costa Rica (where sporadic in winter) in December, departs by end of April or in some years mid-May (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Feeds opportunistically on small fruits, in spring and summer also various insects. May consume maple tree sap and flower petals. Apparantly cannot maintain positive energy balance whenn feeding solely on high-sucrose fruits (Avery et al. 1995, Auk 112:436-444).

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Food Habits

Cedar waxwings eat fruit during the winter and insects during the summer. Cedar berries are the most common fruit that cedar waxwings eat. They take the fruit from the tree by holding on to a branch and plucking it off with their beaks. They can do this sitting upright or hanging upside-down. They also can take the fruit from the tree while hovering in the air.

During the summer months, cedar waxwings eat mostly insects. They often catch insects by waiting around ponds and streams for the insects to emerge from the water. Most of the time, they snatch the insects from the air while they are flying. They also find insect prey by searching along bark and in tree branches.

Animal Foods: insects

Plant Foods: fruit

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Food Habits

During the winter, cedar waxwings eat fruit almost exclusively. They rely heavily on cedar berries, especially in the northern part of their range. The birds take the fruit from the tree by holding on to a branch and plucking it off with their beaks. They do this sitting upright or dangling upside-down. They also can remove the fruit from the tree while hovering.

During the summer months, cedar waxwings switch to eating mostly insects. Often, the waxwings will catch their prey by congregating around ponds and streams and waiting for the insects to emerge from the water. Most of the time, they snatch their prey right out of the air. They also glean bark and forage through tree branches for insects.

Animal Foods: insects

Plant Foods: fruit

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore ); herbivore (Frugivore ); omnivore

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Cedar waxwings disperse seeds of the plants that they eat while eating the berries and through defecation. They also affect populations of the insects that they eat. Finally, cedar waxwings host external parasites, including Proctophyllodes and Ornithomya anchineuria.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Predation

Falco columbarius, Accipiter striatus, Accipiter cooperii, Quiscalus quiscula and Rana catesbiana are all predators of cedar waxwings. Bullfrogs eat the waxwings when they lean down to drink from a pond. Cyanocita cristata eat waxwing nestlings and Troglodytes aedon eat waxwing eggs.

When a predator is nearby, cedar waxwings try to hide themselves by standing up straight and staying still. If they are flying together in a flock, waxwings may crowd together to try to escape predators that chase them. During incubation and the nestling period, males guard the nest from a perch nearby and give a warning call when predators come near the nest. The parents then try to distract the predator by flying away from the nest in a zig-zag path, or by diving at the predator.

Known Predators:

  • merlins (Falco_columbarius)
  • sharp-shinned hawks (Accipiter_striatus)
  • Cooper's hawks (Accipiter_cooperii)
  • common grackles (Quiscalus_quiscula)
  • bullfrogs (Rana_catesbeiana)
  • blue jays (Cyanocitta_cristata)
  • house wrens (Troglodytes_aedon)

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Ecosystem Roles

Cedar waxwings disperse seeds of the plants that they eat while eating the berries and through defecation. They also affect populations of the insects that they eat. Finally, cedar waxwings host external parasites, including feather mites and hippoboscid flies.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Predation

Known predators of adult cedar waxwings include merlins, sharp-shinned hawks, Cooper’s hawks, common grackles and bullfrogs, which attack the waxwings as they drink from stock ponds. Blue jays are known predators of nestlings and house wrens have been observed eating waxwing eggs.

Cedar waxwings may respond to a threat by assuming an erect posture, apparently to make themselves more cryptic. If flying together in a flock, they may crowd together and fly in specific formations to evade pursuers. During the incubation and the nestling periods, males guard the nest and give a warning call when predators approach. Parents whose nest is threatened may try to distract the predator by flying away from the nest in a zig-zag path, or by diving at the predator. Unlike many other small bird species, cedar waxwings are not known to mob large predators.

Known Predators:

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Known predators

Bombycilla cedrorum is prey of:
Rana catesbeiana
Accipiter striatus
Accipiter cooperii
Falco columbarius
Quiscalus quiscula

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Known prey organisms

Bombycilla cedrorum preys on:
Insecta

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

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General Ecology

Usually travels in small groups or flocks; winter flocks may number in thousands.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Cedar waxwings communicate using calls and physical displays. They make several calls that high-pitched buzzy notes hissy whistles. These calls are used to communicate hunger, fear, well-being and many other messages. Males, females and chicks all use calls to communicate.

Cedar waxwings also communicate using physical displays. For example, they raise the feather crest on their head to indicate that they are upset. They open their mouths and ruffle their feathers to signal that they feel threatened. Females often do this to show that they are not interested in a male that is courting them.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Communication and Perception

Cedar waxwings communicate using vocal and physical signals. They produce several calls that are variations of either rapidly repeated buzzy high-pitched notes or high-pitched hissy whistles. These calls can communicate hunger, anxiety, well-being and a number of other messages. They are produced by male and female adults as well as chicks. Cedar waxwings also communicate using physical displays. For example, they may communicate anxiety by raising the crest on their heads. They can signal that they are feeling threatened by opening their mouths and ruffling their feathers. Females usually display this behavior to signal rejection of a male's attempt at courtship.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

The oldest known cedar waxwing lived 7 years in the wild.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
8.2 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
98 months.

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Lifespan/Longevity

The oldest known cedar waxwing lived 7 years in the wild.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
8.2 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
98 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 8.2 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Breeding season variable. Female incubates 3-5, sometimes 6, eggs for 12-16 days. Young are tended by both adults, leave nest at 14-18 days. Sometimes nests in small colonies of up to 12 pairs.

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Cedar waxwings are monogamous. Males try to attract a female by doing a hopping dance and passing pieces of fruit, flower petals or insects to the female. If the female likes the male, she does a hopping dance and then passes the object back to the male. The male and female may pass something back and forth many times. Breeding pairs form in the spring, and the birds nest and breed from June through August. If a pair is able to raise one brood, they may try to raise a second brood together during the same summer.

Mating System: monogamous

Cedar waxwings breed between June and August. A breeding pair may raise one or two broods during a single breeding season. The female lays 2 to 5 eggs (usually 4 or 5). She lays one egg each morning. She incubates the eggs for 11 to 13 days (average 12). The chicks are blind, weak, and naked when they hatch. They stay in the nest for 14 to 18 days (average 15 days) before leaving on short flights. The parents feed the young for 6 to 10 days after this. The young birds form flocks after they leave their nests. They remain in these flocks as they mature. They breed the next summer when they are about 1 year old.

Breeding interval: Cedar waxwings raise one or two broods each year.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs in spring and early summer.

Range eggs per season: 2 to 5.

Average eggs per season: 4 or 5.

Range time to hatching: 11 to 13 days.

Range fledging age: 14 to 18 days.

Average fledging age: 15 days.

Range time to independence: 6 to 10 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sperm-storing

Average eggs per season: 4.

Female cedar waxwings incubate the eggs and brood the chicks for the first 9 days after they hatch. During incubation, the male brings food to the female and guards the nest. Both parents feed the chicks while they are in the nest and for up to 10 days after they begin flying. Both parents also remove the chicks’ fecal sacks from the nest to keep the nest clean.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • University of Georgia Museum of Natural History, 2000. "Species Description: Cedar Waxwing" (On-line). Georgia Wildlife Web. Accessed 03/23/08 at http://dromus.nhm.uga.edu/~GMNH/gawildlife/index.php?page=speciespages/species_page&key=bcedrorum.
  • Witmer, M., D. Mountjoy, L. Elliot. 1997. Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). Pp. 1-28 in A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 309. Philadelphia, PA: The Academy of Natural Sciences and Washington DC: The American Ornithologists Union.
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Cedar waxwings are monogamous within each breeding season. Males court females by doing a hopping dance and passing pieces of fruit, flower petals or insects to their potential mate. If the female is interested in the male, she reciprocates the hopping and passes the item back to the male. This sequence may be repeated many times. After pairs form, the female chooses the nest site. Pairs form beginning in spring, and the birds typically nest and breed from June through August. If the first breeding attempt is successful, the pair usually stays together for a second brood.

Mating System: monogamous

Cedar waxwings breed between June and August. A pair may raise one or two broods during a single breeding season. The female lays 2 to 5 eggs (usually 4 or 5), one per day in early morning. She incubates the eggs for 11 to 13 days (usually 12). The altricial chicks are blind, weak, and naked. They remain in the nest for 14 to 18 days (average 15 days) before venturing out on short flights near the nest. Parents continue to feed the young for 6 to 10 days after they fledge. As early as three or four days after leaving the nest, young waxwings may form flocks with other young from nearby nests. They mature in these flocks and may breed the next summer.

Breeding interval: Cedar waxwings raise one or two broods each year.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs in spring and early summer.

Range eggs per season: 2 to 5.

Average eggs per season: 4 or 5.

Range time to hatching: 11 to 13 days.

Range fledging age: 14 to 18 days.

Average fledging age: 15 days.

Range time to independence: 6 to 10 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sperm-storing

Average eggs per season: 4.

Female cedar waxwings incubate the eggs and brood the chicks for the first 9 days after hatching. During incubation, the male brings food to the female. He also perches in a high exposed place to guard the nest and alert females to the presence of predators. The male and female provide food to the chicks during the hatchling stage and for up to 10 days after fledging. Both parents maintain sanitary conditions in the nest by removing fecal sacks of the chicks and either eating them or dropping them outside the nest.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • University of Georgia Museum of Natural History, 2000. "Species Description: Cedar Waxwing" (On-line). Georgia Wildlife Web. Accessed 03/23/08 at http://dromus.nhm.uga.edu/~GMNH/gawildlife/index.php?page=speciespages/species_page&key=bcedrorum.
  • Witmer, M., D. Mountjoy, L. Elliot. 1997. Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). Pp. 1-28 in A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 309. Philadelphia, PA: The Academy of Natural Sciences and Washington DC: The American Ornithologists Union.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Bombycilla cedrorum

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 6 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

AACCGATGATTATTCTCAACCAACCACAAAGATATCGGAACTCTGTACCTAATCTTTGGTGCATGAGCCGGTATAGTAGGCACAGCCTTA---AGTCTTCTCATCCGAGCTGAATTAGGACAACCAGGTGCACTACTAGGAGAT---GACCAAATCTACAATGTTGTAGTTACAGCCCATGCTTTCGTAATAATTTTCTTCATAGTTATACCAATTATAATCGGTGGATTCGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCATTAATA---ATTGGAGCCCCCGACATAGCATTCCCACGAATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTACTTCCTCCATCTTTCCTCCTACTTCTAGCCTCCTCTACAGTAGAAGCTGGTGCAGGAACAGGATGAACTGTATACCCACCACTAGCAGGTAATCTAGCCCACGCTGGAGCCTCAGTAGACCTA---GCTATTTTCTCATTACACTTAGCAGGTATTTCCTCTATCCTAGGAGCCATCAACTTTATTACAACAGCCATCAACATAAAACCCCCAGCCTTATCACAATATCAAACACCACTGTTCGTATGATCAGTTTTAATTACTGCAGTCCTGCTACTCCTATCTTTACCAGTACTAGCCGCT---GGTATCACAATACTACTTACCGATCGCAACCTTAATACTACTTTCTTTGATCCGGCGGGTGGAGGTGACCCAGTACTATACCAACACCTATTCTGATTCTTTGGACACCCAGAAGTTTACATCTTAATTCTACCAGGATTCGGAATCATTTCCCATGTTGTAGCCTACTACGCAGGAAAAAAA---GAACCATTCGGCTATATAGGAATAGTATGAGCTATACTATCCATCGGTTTCCTAGGATTTATTGTATGAGCCCACCACATGTTCACAGTAGGAATAGACGTAGACACCCGAGCTTACTTTACATCTGCCACCATAATCATTGCTATCCCAACAGGAATTAAAGTCTTTAGCTGACTA---GCAACC
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Bombycilla cedrorum

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Large range, relatively common, increasing populations.

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Cedar waxwings are common throughout their range. The number of cedar waxwings has increased in number over the last 40 years or so. This is probably because there is more food available.

Cedar waxwings are protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act. They are not an endangered or threatened species.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Cedar waxwings are common throughout their range, and have increased in number over the past several decades. This population increase is probably due in part to the increase in fruiting trees and shrubs as agricultural lands revert to forest.

Cedar waxwings are protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act. They are not protected under CITES or the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Global Short Term Trend: Increase of 10 to >25%

Comments: Breeding Bird Survey data indicate a significant population increase (average of 3% per year) in North America between 1966 and 1989 (Droege and Sauer 1990).

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Population

Population Trend
Increasing
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Cedar waxwings eat some economically valuable fruit crops.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Cedar waxwings eat insects that some people consider to be pests.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Cedar waxwings eat some economically valuable fruit crops.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Cedar waxwings eat insects that some people consider to be pests.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Wikipedia

Cedar Waxwing

The cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) is a member of the family Bombycillidae or waxwing family of passerine birds. It is a medium sized, mostly brown, gray, and yellow bird named for its wax-like wing tips. It is a native of North and Central America, breeding in open wooded areas in southern Canada and wintering in the southern half of the United States, Central America, and the far northwest of South America. Its diet includes cedar cones, fruit, and insects.[2] The Cedar Waxwing is not endangered.

Description[edit]

Audubon's illustration

Cedar Waxwings are a medium sized bird approximately 6–7 in (15–18 cm) long and weigh roughly 30 g (1.1 oz). They are smaller and more brown than their close relative, the Bohemian Waxwing (which breeds farther to the north and west). It is a "silky, shiny collection of brown, gray, and lemon-yellow, accented with a subdued crest, rakish black mask, and brilliant-red wax droplets on the wing feathers."[3] These birds' most prominent feature is this small cluster of red wax-like droplets on tips of secondary flight feathers on the wings, a feature they share with the Bohemian Waxwing (but not the Japanese Waxwing). The wings are "broad and pointed, like a starling's."[3] The tail is typically yellow or orange depending on diet. Birds that have fed on berries of introduced Eurasian honeysuckles while growing tail feathers will have darker orange-tipped tail-feathers.[4] The tail is somewhat short, and square-tipped.[3] Adults have a pale yellow belly. The Waxwing's crest often "lies flat and droops over the back of the head."[3] It has a short and wide bill.[3] The Waxwing's black mask has a thin white border. Immature birds are streaked on the throat and flanks, and often do not have the black mask of the adults. Males and females look alike.[5]

The flight of waxwings is strong and direct, and the movement of the flock in flight resembles that of a flock of small pale European Starlings. Cedar Waxwings fly at 40 km/h (25 mph) and fly at an altitude of 610 m (2,000 ft).

Cedar Waxwings are also known as the Southern Waxwing, Canada Robin, Cedar Bird, Cherry Bird, or Recellet.

The oldest observed Cedar Waxwing was eight years and two months old.[4]

Vocalizations[edit]

The two common calls of these birds include very high-pitched whistles and buzzy trills about a half second long often represented as see or sree.[4][6] Its call can also be described as "high, thin, whistles."[3] They call often, especially in flight.[4]

Distribution and Habitat[edit]

In the branches of a Weeping Holly tree

Preferred habitat consists of trees at the edge of wooded areas, or "open" forests, especially those that provide access to berry sources as well as water. They are frequently seen in fruiting trees.[3] Waxwings are attracted to the sound of running water, and love to bathe in and drink from shallow creeks. In urban or suburban environments, waxwings often favor parkland with well-spaced trees; golf courses, cemeteries, or other landscaping with well-spaced trees; bushes that provide berries; and a nearby water source such as a fountain or birdbath. Also look for them near farms, orchards, and gardens, particularly ones with fruiting trees or shrubs.[3]

Outside the breeding season, Cedar Waxwings often feed in large flocks numbering hundreds of birds. This species is nomadic and irruptive,[7] with erratic winter movements, though most of the population migrates farther south into the United States and beyond, sometimes reaching as far as northern South America. They will move in huge numbers if berry supplies are low. Rare vagrants have reached western Europe, and there are two recorded occurrences of Cedar Waxwing sightings in Great Britain. Individual Bohemian Waxwings will occasionally join large winter flocks of Cedar Waxwings.

Behavior and Ecology[edit]

Cedar Waxwings are sociable, seen in flocks year round.[3] They are non-territorial birds and "will often groom each other."[5] They move from place to place depending on where they can find good sources of berries.[5]

Breeding[edit]

Mating season for this bird begins around the end of spring and runs through late summer.[5] The male will do a "hopping dance" for the female. If she is interested, she'll hop back.[5] During courtship the male and female will sit together and pass small objects back and forth, such as flower petals or an insect. Mating pairs will sometimes rub their beaks together affectionately. The nest is a loose open cup built with grass and twigs, lined with softer materials and supported by a tree branch averaging 2 to 6 m (6.6 to 19.7 ft) above ground but, at times, considerably higher. It takes around five or six days for the female Waxwing to build the nest and can take up to 2,500 trips back and forth. Sometimes the female will steal nest material from other species' nests to save time.[4] The outer diameter of the nest is approximately 12 to 16 cm (4.7 to 6.3 in). Usually 5 or 6 eggs are laid and the female incubates them for 11 to 13 days.[4] The eggs are oval shaped with a smooth surface and very little, if any, gloss. The egg shells are of various shades of light or bluish grey with irregular, dark brown spots or greyish-brown splotches.[4] Both parents build the nest and feed the young. Typically, there are one or two broods during the mating season.[4] Young leave the nest about 14 to 18 days after hatching.[4]

Diet[edit]

Feeding on tree sap
Eating berries
Cedar Waxwing-27527-1.jpg

The Cedar Waxwing eats berries and sugary fruit year-round, including "dogwood, serviceberry, cedar, juniper, hawthorn, and winterberry",[3] with insects becoming an important part of the diet in the breeding season. Its fondness for the small cones of the Eastern Redcedar (a kind of juniper) gave this bird its common name. They eat berries whole.[3] They sometimes fly over water to catch insects.[3]

When the end of a twig holds a supply of berries that only one bird at a time can reach, members of a flock may line up along the twig and pass berries beak to beak down the line so that each bird gets a chance to eat.[8]

Sometimes, Cedar Waxwings will eat fruit that is overripe and has begun to ferment, intoxicating the bird.[4]

Conservation status[edit]

Waxwings are evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.[1] Populations are increasing in their range partly because fields are being allowed to grow into forests and shrublands, and fruiting trees like mountain ash are being planted as landscaping.[4] On the other hand, Cedar Waxwings do sometimes crash into windows, and get hit by cars while foraging along roadsides.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Bombycilla cedrorum". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Tekiela, Stan. Birds of Minnesota Field Guide. Cambridge, MN: Adventure Publications, Inc., 2004. Book.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "All About Birds." Cedar Waxwing, Identification. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, n.d. Web. 24 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "All About Birds." Cedar Waxwing, Life History. Cornell Lab of Ornithology., n.d. Web. 24 June 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Cedar Waxwing - Bombycilla Cedrorum." Cedar Waxwing. Nature Works, n.d. Web. 15 July 2013. <http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/cedarwaxwing.htm>.
  6. ^ "American Robin, Kingbirds, Bluebirds and Chickadees of North America." Backyard Birding. n.p, n.d. Web. 18 June 2013.
  7. ^ "Cedar Waxwing." BirdWeb. Seattle Audubon Society, n.d. Web. 16 July 2013. <http://www.birdweb.org/birdweb/bird/cedar_waxwing>.
  8. ^ Rice, Robert. "Cedar Waxwing." Cedar Waxwing The Movable Feaster. Smithsonian National Zoological Park, May 1997. Web. 11 July 2013.
  • Witmer, Mark C., Mountjoy, D. James, and Elliot, Lang. "Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla Cedrorum)." in The Birds of North America, Number 309 (Alan Poole and Frank Gill, editors.) The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. 1997.
  • Tyler, W.M. "Bombycilla Cedrorum: Cedar Waxwing" in Life Histories of North American Wagtails, Shrikes, Vireos and Their Allies. (Arthur Cleveland Bent, editor.) New York: Dover Publications: 1965 (Unedited reprint of: U.S. Government Printing Office: Smithsonian Institution United States National Museum, Bulletin 197: 1950). pp. 79–102
  • Bent, Arthur Cleveland, editor. "Bombycilla Garrulus: Bohemian Waxwing" in Life Histories of North American Wagtails, Shrikes, Vireos and Their Allies. New York: Dover Publications: 1965 (Unedited reprint of: U.S. Government Printing Office: Smithsonian Institution United States National Museaum, Bulletin 197: 1950). pp. 62–79.
  • Stokes, Donald & Lillian. Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume 2. New York: Little, Brown &Company. 1983. (Cedar Waxwing, pp. 177–188)
  • Sibley, David Allen. National Audubon Society: The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2000. (Waxwings: pp. 423.)
  • Sibley, David, et al., editors. National Audubon Society: The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2001. (Waxwings: pp. 485–487; waxwing article by Mark Witmer.)
  • Martin, Alfred G. Hand-Taming Wild Birds at the Feeder. Brattleboro, VT: Alan C. Hood & Company. 1963. (Waxwings: pp 113–117)
  • Leister, Mary. "Cedar Waxwings: Unpredictable Birds." BirdWatcher's Digest. November/December 1991 (Vol 14, No. 2). pp. 50–55.
  • Iliff, Marshall J. "Identify Yourself: Waxwings – Cedar versus Bohemian." BirdWatcher's Digest. October 2001 (Vol 24, No. 1). pp. 38–42.
  • Stiles and Skutch, A guide to the birds of Costa Rica ISBN 0-8014-9600-4
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Banks and Browning (1995), as first reviser, elected CEDRORUM over AMERICANA for the specific name, and they regarded B. CAROLINENSIS as a nomen oblitum.

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