Beak of the Week – Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Family: Bombycillidae

Flocks of Cedar Waxwings are welcome winter visitors to the Houston suburbs where they feast primarily on berries. The Cedar Waxwing is one of the few North American birds that specializes in eating fruit; their digestive system is especially adapted to rapidly digest berries and they can survive on fruit alone for several months. Favorite food sources include the berries of hollies, Cherry Laurel, Cedar and Privet. They are also known to relish the early spring buds of maples and elms. The name “waxwing” is derived from the waxy-looking red tips of their wings.

Cedar Waxwings are pale brown on the head and chest fading to soft gray on the wings. The belly is pale yellow, and the tail is gray with a bright yellow tip. The face has a narrow black mask neatly outlined in white. The red waxy tips to the wing feathers are not always easy to see. Males and females look alike.

The period between Christmas and February is a good time of the year to look for Cedar Waxwings in urban and suburban areas across Texas. They are almost always in flocks and are easy to recognize by the thin, high-pitched ‘seeeeee’ calls they make when in the tree tops and in flight. 

Greg Lavaty
Greg Lavaty

Anthony Rathbun

Our Beak of the Week is one of 12 birds featured in Confluence, a public art installation along the Bayou Greenway trail at the confluence of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous. The 223-foot mural, created by artist Jane Kim, founder of Ink Dwell Studio, showcases the birds that call Houston’s bayous home. Confluence is commissioned by Houston Parks Board and hosted in collaboration with Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Houston Audubon is pleased to provide ornithological expertise and collaborate on programming and promotion of the mural. Learn more about Confluence here. 

 Visit our Bird Gallery to read about other Texas birds! 

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