Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Cedar Waxwing

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Bombycillidae | [latin] Bombycilla cedrorum | [UK] Cedar Waxwing | [FR] Jaseur des cedres | [DE] Zedern-Seidenschwanz | [ES] Ampelis Americano | [NL] Cederpestvogel


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Phainoptila cedrorum
Bombycilla cedrorum
Bombycilla cedrorum NA, LA Canada to Venezuela and Colombia

Physical charateristics

Cedar waxwings are sleek birds with silky plumage. They are approximately 15.5 cm in length and weigh about 32 g. Adults have a grayish-brown plumage with pale yellow on the breast and belly. The secondary wing feathers are tipped with red wax-like droplets, and the tail is square with a bright yellow band at the tip. Cedar waxwings have a crest and a black mask edged with white.
Male and female waxwings are similar in appearance, but males have a slightly darker chin patch. Females may also be slightly heavier than males during the breeding season. Juvenile cedar waxwings look similar to adults, but are greyer overall, have streaking on their underparts and a much smaller crest and lack the red tips on their secondary feathers.

Listen to the sound of Cedar Waxwing

[audio:http://www.aviflevoland.nl/sounddb/C/Cedar Waxwing.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 32 cm wingspan max.: 33 cm
size min.: 15 cm size max.: 16 cm
incubation min.: 11 days incubation max.: 13 days
fledging min.: 14 days fledging max.: 13 days
broods: 2   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America, Latin America : Canada to Venezuela and Colombia


Cedar waxwings nest in open woodlands (deciduous, coniferous and mixed) or oldfield habitats. They prefer habitats with numerous small trees and shrubs for nesting and food. They frequently inhabit riparian areas, which provide nesting shrubs and trees, fruits and emerging aquatic insects, but also use farms, orchards, conifer plantations, and suburban gardens.


Cedar waxwings are monogamous within each breeding season. Males court females by doing a hopping dance and passing pieces of fruit, flower petals or insects to their potential mate. If the female is interested in the male, she reciprocates the hopping and passes the item back to the male. This sequence may be repeated many times. After pairs form, the female chooses the nest site. Pairs form beginning in spring, and the birds typically nest and breed from June through August. If the first breeding attempt is successful, the pair usually stays together for a second brood.
Cedar waxwings breed between June and August. A pair may raise one or two broods during a single breeding season. The female lays 2 to 5 eggs (usually 4 or 5), one per day in early morning. She incubates the eggs for 11 to 13 days (usually 12). The altricial chicks are blind, weak, and naked. They remain in the nest for 14 to 18 days (average 15 days) before venturing out on short flights near the nest. Parents continue to feed the young for 6 to 10 days after they fledge. As early as three or four days after leaving the nest, young waxwings may form flocks with other young from nearby nests. They mature in these flocks and may breed the next summer.
Female cedar waxwings incubate the eggs and brood the chicks for the first 9 days after hatching. During incubation, the male brings food to the female. He also perches in a high exposed place to guard the nest and alert females to the presence of predators. The male and female provide food to the chicks during the hatchling stage and for up to 10 days after fledging. Both parents maintain sanitary conditions in the nest by removing fecal sacks of the chicks and either eating them or dropping them outside the nest.

Feeding habits

During the winter, cedar waxwings eat fruit almost exclusively. They rely heavily on cedar berries, especially in the northern part of their range. The birds take the fruit from the tree by holding on to a branch and plucking it off with their beaks. They do this sitting upright or dangling upside-down. They also can remove the fruit from the tree while hovering.
During the summer months, cedar waxwings switch to eating mostly insects. Often, the waxwings will catch their prey by congregating around ponds and streams and waiting for the insects to emerge from the water. Most of the time, they snatch their prey right out of the air. They also glean bark and forage through tree branches for insects.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Cedar waxwings (Bombycillia cedrorum) are found only in North America. Their breeding range extends throughout the southern half of Canada and the northern half of the United States. The winter range includes the United States, Mexico and Central America as far south as Panama. They also winter in the Caribbean region. Many birds in the northern United States and extreme southern Canada are year-round residents.
Cedar Waxwing status Least Concern


Cedar waxwings are nomadic. Flocks of cedar waxwings move from place to place throughout the year, except during the breeding season. Some populations are also migratory. Winters widely south of breeding range from s Canada s to Mexico, C. America, Greater Antilles and n South America.

Distribution map

Cedar Waxwing distribution range map

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