If you’ve been in Crow Island Woods during the last couple weeks, you’ve likely heard if not seen Cedar Waxwings. They are said to wander in search of fruit rather than migrate so while they can be in the area all year if enough berries are available, they are much more prevalent from summer to late-fall. Cedar Waxwings are undoubtedly the sleekest birds in the Woods. Primarily a silky brown bird with a pale yellow belly, their secondary wing tips are red and their tail tips are yellow. Like the Northern Cardinal, they have a bold black mask and a crest. The crest on a Cedar Waxwing is typically slicked back extending beyond its head. Males and females of this species look the same.
These very social birds are typically seen in groups, sometimes as many as 100 will flock together. Look for Cedar Waxwings on berry bushes and fruit trees as this is their primary food source and one for which they are uniquely suited. While most birds have to regurgitate the seeds when consuming fruit, Cedar Waxwings can digest the seeds and they are often seen swallowing them whole. Their love of fruit does have its complications. They do on occasion become intoxicated after inadvertently consuming fermented berries. After overindulging on the spiked fruit, Cedar Waxwings have been seen stumbling out of bushes and flying erratically.
Given their highly social nature, you rarely see territorial displays between waxwings even during mating and nesting season. You are more likely to see a group taking turns eating berries from a branch or see them in a line passing berries one to the other with last in line eating first and the first in line, the one retrieving the berries, serving itself last. An egalitarian society is rare among birds but that is how groups of Cedar Waxwing behave toward one another. Collectively or as a group, they are aptly called an “ear-full”. Their extremely high-pitched ‘zeeeeet’ and trill calls are hard to miss when walking the trails of Crow Island Woods this time of year.