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Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum


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Cedar Waxwing
credit: Ken Thomas

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Bombycillidae, Waxwings view all from this family

Description ADULT Has orange-buff plumage overall, palest on underparts and white on undertail. Wings are dark, except for white inner edge to tertials and red, waxlike feather projections. Rump is gray and dark tail has a broad yellow terminal band. Note the prominent crest; dark mask through eye is defined above and below by white line (more striking above than in Bohemian). JUVENILE Gray-buff overall; differs from juvenile Bohemian in having unmarked dark wings, except for pale inner margin to tertials. First-winter is similar to adult, but lacks red, waxy wing projections.

Dimensions Length: 6 1/2-8" (17-20 cm)

Habitat Common in open woodland. Present year-round in much of northern U.S.; summer visitor further north and a winter visitor south to Mexico.

Observation Tips Easiest to find outside breeding season when sizeable flocks (sometimes hundreds strong) live nomadic lives in search of berry-laden bushes and shrubs.

Range Mid-Atlantic, Northwest, Western Canada, Florida, New England, California, Great Lakes, Rocky Mountains, Texas, Eastern Canada, Plains, Alaska, Southeast, Southwest

Voice Song comprises a series of piercing tzeee call notes.

Discussion Delightful bird whose distinctive crest and soft-looking orange-buff plumage make it easy to recognize, although confusion with scarcer and much less widespread (in east) Bohemian Waxwing is always a possibility. Use differences in structure and plumage color to distinguish between the two: Cedar's plumage is warmer looking overall (orange-buff, not pinkish and so gray), undertail coverts are white (not chestnut), and its dark wings are almost unmarked. Forms roving flocks outside breeding season that search for berry trees and bushes and strip them before moving on to the next source of food. In flight, silhouette resembles a Starling. Sexes are similar.