Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum

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There are three species of waxwing in the world, the Cedar Waxwing is the only one restricted to the New World. It is broadly distributed as a breeder, found from British Columbia and Northern California east to Newfoundland. It breeds only in relatively temperate forest areas, clear north to the Boreal Forest Zone. In migration this species can be found essentially anywhere in North America, and it is a long-distance migrant. Flocks roam south looking for their favorite food, which are various types of berries. The southern extent of their winter range is variable and depends on where the berry crops are. Sometimes they can be abundant to El Salvador in Central America, and regularly reach Panama. There are also records from Colombia and Venezuela! Cedar Waxwings spend the non-breeding season in flocks, ranging from a dozen to 40-50. At a good foraging spot the flocks may coalesce into hundreds of birds. They give a distinctive high pitched trill as the flight call; this species lacks a true song. All vocalizations appear to be variations of the high-pitched trill. Their name comes from the odd structures on their secondaries that look like a drop of red “sealing wax.” The role of these wax tips is unclear, although males have more wax tips than females and older birds have more than younger birds so it may be a sexually selected signal of quality as presumably there is a cost to producing these odd waxy looking features at the end of a feather.

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© Geoffrey A. Keller

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  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/cedwax