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Species Description

Cedar Waxwing

Bombycilla cedrorum

Species Image


Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Bombycillidae


Brownish upper body; yellow wash on the under parts; pale rump; black mask that runs from the bill to behind the eye; dark wings with red tips on the inner flight feathers; tail with yellow tips. Other things to look for: This species has a crest, and its call is a high-pitched whistle. 18 cm (7.25 in) in length.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in late May, peaks in mid-June through July, and extends to late August. Breeding habitat is open woodlands or areas with scattered trees in mountainous areas. The Cedar Waxwing prefers conifers. The male and female build a cup-shaped nest, usually in a conifer about 1.8-15m (6-50 feet) above the ground. The nest is constructed from twigs, grass, weeds, and moss, and is lined with finer material. The female lays 2-6 (usually 3-5) eggs that she incubates for approximately 12 days. Whether the male assists in incubation is unknown. The young are altricial and remain in the nest while being cared for by both adults for approximately 16 days.

Natural History

When this bird is not breeding, its habitat use is highly variable. The Cedar Waxwing is associated with trees or shrubs that have berries, which make up a large portion of its diet. Its main diet is fruit, but also it also will eat flowers, tree sap, and insects. Insects are fed to the young. To obtain insects, the Cedar Waxwing sits on a perch and watches for prey to fly by, then takes off and captures it in mid-air. When foraging on fruit, it searchs nearby vegetation and simply takes the food off of the shrub or tree.


Cedar Waxwing Region Map The Cedar Waxwing occurs in most of the northern United States during the breeding season and in some middle latitudes all year. During the breeding season it is uncommon to fairly common in the mountain regions and rare elsewhere in the Southeast. During all but the breeding season, it is common throughout the South, except for extreme southern Florida. Migrant or wintering Cedar Waxwings usually group into large flocks.

Conservation Status

This species is fairly common in appropriate habitat and is not listed as Threatened or Endangered in any part of its southeastern range. The Cedar Waxwing is one species of bird that rejects Brown-headed Cowbird eggs by abandoning the nest, removing the egg, or damaging the cowbird egg.

Similar Species

The species most similar to the Cedar Waxwing is the Bohemian Waxwing. The Bohemian Waxwing is larger, with distinctive white wing bars and yellow tips on its flight feathers. The Bohemian Waxwing is mostly a western species, and is only seen in the northern parts of the eastern United States and Canada.