By Carolyn Gritzmaker
One of the loveliest birds to be seen during the winter season is the cedar waxwing(Bombycilla cedrorum). So perfectly are their feathers and coloring blended that they appear quite soft and velvety. This, combined with the bird’s graceful form give the waxwing an elegance of its own.
They are sleek brown birds with a black mask and long crest, have a yellow band at the tip of their tail and a wash of yellow on their belly. Adult birds have small red drop-shaped waxy tips on their secondary wing feathers, for which they get their name “waxwing”. At seven inches, they are just slightly larger than a sparrow.
Cedar waxwings are highly social birds and are almost always seen in flocks. Very rarely do you see a lone bird, and then it appears quite lost. The behavior of the waxwings is interesting to watch. They are so mild-mannered that even though they can be seen in large flocks of several hundred birds, they never seem to fight amongst themselves or with other birds. Often times you can see two or three waxwings getting a drink of water. When they leave, others will arrive in their place until the whole flock has had a drink, never crowding in, but all taking turns.
They have a voracious appetite and will gorge themselves while feeding. Their main foods are berries such as cedar, holly, mulberry, privet, and cherry. Waxwings do not have a winter feeding territory like some birds, but will roam about the countryside in search of food.
The call of the cedar waxwing is a very high, thin “seee”, which seems to be given constantly in the flock, whether the birds are flying, feeding, or resting. In many cases, the call is the first indication you will have of a flock, as they almost sit in the topmost branches of trees when resting.
Cedar waxwings are common to abundant winter residents in Texas and can be seen in Ellis and Navarro Counties from mid-October through May.