A Search For Waxwings Starts With A Search For Berries

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The brilliant red wing feathers of the Cedar Waxwing often go overlooked unless viewed from close range.

If you are looking for excellent views of the beautiful Cedar Waxwing, late fall and early winter is the perfect time. These colourful birds are a year round resident of our area, but with leafless trees and predictable movements at this time of year, some of the best views are now achievable.

Cedar Waxwings can be found in a wide variety of habitats including: deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forests, city parks, backyards and alongside rivers and ponds. Their diet mainly consists of fruits and berries, but during summer months insects are also consumed. Waxwings are a common backyard visitor if you happen to have Serviceberry, Mountain Ash, Dogwoods or other fruit producing trees and shrubs in your yard. Unless you have a large property with several fruit trees, visits will likely be short lived as these birds quickly devour all the fruit from a tree and then move on.

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The diet of a Cedar Waxwing consists solely of berries during winter months.

During late fall and winter, large flocks of Cedar Waxwings can be found feeding on remaining berries on various trees and shrubs. With a limited diet and food sources this time of year, locating these birds is quite easy. Find berries and you will find Cedar Waxwings. Once a flock is located, they can be observed feeding in the same location for days until all of the fruit is consumed. In areas where fruit trees are abundant, Cedar Waxwings will be found all winter, only moving short distances to search for food.

This past week I discovered a large flock of Cedar Waxwings feeding on berries in Springbank Park. The flock was observed feeding daily in the same group of trees. The birds were more interested in feeding than they were concerned with my presence, and many views were had from merely an arms length away. In fact, I had to step back in order to photograph the birds with a 400mm lens. The week passed and the trees are now completely void of berries. Fortunately, the area is full of fruit trees and I located the flock only a short distance away. Knowing these predictable feeding areas and movements will provide excellent views, and photo opportunities all winter as the birds move along the river.

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Cedar Waxwing reaching for a berry.

The silent movements of Cedar Waxwings often go unnoticed as they flit around consuming berries. It is not uncommon to be right next to these birds without detecting their presence. Learning their soft whistling call is a great help in locating Cedar Waxwings. Flocks of Waxwings will regularly perch high in trees letting out their soft calls while others feed closer to the ground. It is these faint whistles that will alert you of Cedar Waxwings in the area.

Pay close attention to trees and shrubs that still contain fruit next time you are out birding. When an area is discovered, listen for the soft whistles of the Cedar Waxwing. Once located, these birds will provide colourful views for you all winter long.

Good birding,

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