The Cedar Waxwing: A Show-Stopper with an Affinity for Native Texas Berries

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If you’re one of the lucky few who has had the privilege of glancing outside at just the right moment to see a flock of cedar waxwings roost in a nearby tree, you undoubtedly understand the birding buzz surrounding these exquisite creatures. Our state draws these somewhat migratory birds because of winter fruit supplies from cedar, (which gives them part of their name) mistletoe, hawthorn, and fruits from ornamentals such as honeysuckle, pyracantha, and chinaberries. However, the yaupons excite them the most in the months of January and February. In Texas, the cedar waxwing is a common to abundant winter resident in all parts of the state except in the Trans-Pecos portion of the state. 

Gluttons For Fruit

cedar waxwing

Photo: Flickr/Henry T. McLin

Bird experts define the comings and goings of the birds as being migratory because they do move between breeding grounds mostly in Canada and wintering grounds farther south in the U.S., with some going into Mexico and Central America. Their movement south may not be so much of a migratory urge as the urge to search for feeding grounds to satiate their diet of fruiting vegetation that becomes scarce in winter in breeding grounds.

The cedar waxwing is about the size and shape of a cardinal, even sporting cardinal like crests. They have black face masks sweeping over the eyes, walnut-brown plumage, pale yellow bellies and yellow-tipped tails, and dark wings with bright, red tips to the secondary or innermost flight feathers that look like red patches on the folded wings.

Eye-Catching and Charming

cedar waxwing
Photo: Pixabay/skeeze

The birds can even act charming, as described by the late ornithologist Harry Oberholser and others. Perched in a row, they’ll pass a berry down the line and back until someone finally swallows it. Likewise, courting couples may exchange a berry repeatedly.

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