Berry-loving bird sometimes gets a little tipsy

Cedar waxwing

Published Oct 23, 2013 at 05:00AM

Scientific name: Bombycilla cedrorum

Characteristics: A songbird with reddish brown upper parts and tannish underparts, a slicked-back head crest, black eye mask and yellow-tipped tail feathers. The wings are grayish above and have red bead-like tips on some wing feathers. Often observed in flocks. Adults average 7 inches in length.

Breeding: Builds a bulky cup-shaped nest of twigs and grasses in a tree. The female lays two to six eggs, which take about two weeks to hatch.

Range: Found throughout most of North America and Mexico during portions of the year. May be irregular in their appearance; probably depending upon food resources in an area.

Habitat: Prefers forest edges, woodlands, orchards and residential areas.

Food: Feeds on berries of junipers, mountain ash, firethorn and other plants, as well as insects, flowers and tree sap. May come to a feeder to eat apple slices or peas. If the birds eat fermenting fruit, they may display some FWI (flying while intoxicated) behavior.

Comments: Although these waxwings will eat cedar or juniper berries, the “waxwing” common name comes from a reddish substance secreted from the wing tips that resembles small drops of sealing wax. The genus name comes from a combination of Greek and Latin words meaning “silky tailed.” A flock may sit on a limb and pass a berry along the line before one bird eats the fruit. Often viewed flying in tight flocks, these birds fly with rapid wing beats and high-pitched warbling calls. A flock is known as an “earful of waxwings.”

Current viewing: Throughout Central Oregon in parks, residential areas or areas with berry-bearing trees.

— Damian Fagan is an East Cascades Audubon Society volunteer and COCC Community Learning instructor. He can be reached at damian.fagan@hotmail.com.

Sources: Oregon Department of Wildlife Resources and “The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds” by John Terres