Bird Bio: Cedar Waxwing

In winter here in middle-Tennessee you are likely to see a flock of these beautiful birds as they descend on a berry laden tree or shrub, and strip it clean of its fruit before moving on to the next supply of berries, or birdbath opportunity.

Cedar waxwings are predominantly in middle-Tennessee during the winter months roaming about in small to large flocks devouring berries and taking over birdbaths.  They are distinguished by the crest on the head, black mask, soft brown and yellow plumage, and the yellow band on the tail, as if it’s been dipped in yellow paint. Present but not easily seen, unless you are looking through binoculars, are the red tips near the end of the wings.  They are slightly smaller than a Cardinal.

Because they are so unpredictable in their comings and goings it is hard to offer them anything in the way of food.  Having the types of plants that produce berries and providing a water source are the keys to attracting this elegant bird.  It is an uncommon resident of Tennessee outside of the winter months. 

Cedar Waxwings have actually been known to get drunk on berries that have begun fermenting.  Cold temperatures concentrate the sugar in fruit, and then a temperature increase accelerates the speed at which the sugars break down.  The alcohol that forms is more potent than what would normally come from fermented berries-sort of like vodka instead of beer.  They will binge on the berries until tipsy and actually have difficulty flying straight, or in some cases stumbling around on the ground.  The likelihood of hitting windows in flight increases as well.  The reflective window decals we have at the store are quite effective at reducing window hits.  If you experience a drunken bird in your yard you could help the bird by collecting it in a box with some soft bedding and let it sleep off the effects in a quiet place.  Usually a bird will recuperate in a couple hours.