Wild Profile: Meet the cedar waxwing

Updated: July 22, 2019

By Ernest A Ross/Shutterstock

If you’ve got any berry shrubs or fruiting plants on your property, you’ve probably got cedar waxwings. These birds are frugivores: they base their diet mostly on raw fruit. Sounds healthy!

In summer, cedar waxwings stuff their faces with raspberries, chokecherries, strawberries, mulberries, and serviceberries—though they’ll usually add a few mayflies or dragonflies to their meals, for protein. Waxwings, named for the wax-like red tips on their secondary flight feathers, are so fruit-dependent that chicks don’t hatch until mid-summer, prime berry season. This way, there’s plenty of fresh food to feed the whole brood.

Ever see a pair of cedar waxwings passing a piece of food back and forth to each other (“Here, you have it”; “No, you have it!”)? It’s probably a male and female, courting. Aww, nothing says “I love you” like a ripe serviceberry. Or a dead insect.

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