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Bird of the Week: Cedar Waxwing

For a primarily grey and brown bird, Cedar Waxwings are a surprisingly showy resident of our parks. A black-mask across their eyes and a yellow tail tip give them the look of a comic book superhero, while characteristic red tips on their wings give them their name. Ornithologist’s best guess at the reason for these waxy red tips is as a status symbol. As a waxwing ages, it will gain red tips, and consequently these birds seem to be the ones that are more appealing to potential mates. Outside of nesting season, these fruit-loving birds are often seen in flocks on trees and shrubs bearing small fruits. Look to dogwood, serviceberry, and juniper to spot them. Other birds will also eat fruit, but the amount a cedar waxwing will eat makes them unique among other species. That doesn’t mean fruit is their only food source, they also supplement their diets with insects, sap, and even flowers. Interestingly, the cedar waxwings diet helps protect it from falling prey to parasitic nesters, such as cowbirds, since the young of any other species would not be able to thrive on the heavy fruit diet a mother and father waxwing would provide. If you’re hoping to see a cedar waxwing at one of your Huron-Clinton Metroparks, listen for their high, clear “sree!” or trilling cricket calls.

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