Dive into the World of Cedar Waxwings: Nesting, Feeding, and Unique 'Getting Drunk' Habits Explored

A Cedar Waxwing bird with a yellow belly is perched on a branch eating a red berry. The branch, covered in ice and other red berries, highlights the Cedar Waxwing habitat against a blurred snowy background.

1. Understanding Cedar Waxwings

Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) are a captivating bird species that can be found across North America. Here's an overview of these unique birds:

Physical Characteristics

Cedar Waxwings are medium-sized birds with a sleek and elegant appearance. They have soft, plumage in shades of brown and gray, with a distinctive crested head and black mask around their eyes. One of their most striking features is their bright yellow tail tips, which resemble the texture and color of cedar wax.

Distribution across North America

Cedar Waxwings have a wide distribution throughout North America, ranging from southern Canada to Central America. During the breeding season, they can be found in deciduous forests, orchards, and open woodlands across the continent. In the winter months, they migrate to southern regions where food sources are more abundant.

These graceful birds are known for their social behavior and their distinct vocalizations. They often gather in flocks, moving together in coordinated flight patterns. Their melodious calls and soft trills can be heard as they communicate with each other.

Cedar Waxwings are fascinating creatures with unique nesting habits, feeding behaviors, and intriguing rituals that set them apart from other bird species. In the following sections, we will dive deeper into these aspects to gain a better understanding of these enchanting birds.

2. Exploring Nesting Habits of Cedar Waxwings


Cedar Waxwings are known for their unique nesting habits, which involve careful selection of nesting sites and intricate nest construction. These behaviors can be observed during their breeding season, where they display remarkable dedication in raising their young.

Description of Cedar Waxwing Nests

  • Cedar Waxwings typically build their nests in the forks of trees, often at mid-level heights.
  • The nests are constructed with grass, twigs, and other plant materials, held together by the birds' sticky saliva.
  • The interior of the nest is lined with softer materials such as moss, fine grass, and feathers to provide a comfortable environment for the eggs and nestlings.

Materials Used for Nest Building

  • Cedar Waxwings collect a variety of materials for constructing their nests, including small twigs, rootlets, and bits of moss.
  • They also use hair or fur from animals like horses or dogs to reinforce the structure of the nest.

Contribution of Both Sexes in the Nest-Building Process

  • Both male and female Cedar Waxwings play an active role in building the nest.
  • They work together to gather materials and construct a sturdy nest that can withstand various weather conditions.

Timing of Egg Laying and Clutch Size

  • After completing the nest, the female Cedar Waxwing lays a clutch of one to five pale blue eggs with brown or gray blotches.
  • The timing of egg laying usually coincides with the peak availability of their primary food source – ripe fruit.

Incubation Responsibilities of Female Cedar Waxwings

  • Once the eggs are laid, the female Cedar Waxwing takes on the primary responsibility for incubating the eggs to ensure proper development.

Duration of the Incubation Period

  • The incubation period typically lasts around 12 to 13 days before the eggs hatch.

Development of Nestlings During the Nestling Phase

  • After hatching, both parents diligently care for the young, feeding them regurgitated fruit and insects.
  • The nestlings grow rapidly over a period of about 14 days until they fledge from the nest.

Cedar Waxwings exhibit remarkable dedication during the nesting phase, showcasing their adaptability and resilience as they raise their young in diverse habitats across North America.

3. Feeding Behavior: Fruit Eaters with a Side of Insects


Cedar Waxwings primarily eat fruits, and this has an important role in spreading seeds in their habitats. They consume a lot of fruits, especially during the breeding season, as they provide them with the energy they need from the high amount of nutrients in berries and small fruits.

Importance of Fruits in Their Diet

Fruits are crucial for Cedar Waxwings as they give them the nutrients and energy they need for their fast metabolism. Eating fruits also helps with their digestion and sustains them during long flights. The availability of fruits during different times of the year also affects when they breed and how successful their breeding is.

Role in Seed Dispersal

As Cedar Waxwings eat fruits, they unintentionally help spread seeds by pooping them out. This process helps plants grow in different areas and keeps a good variety of plants in their ecosystems. It shows how important these birds are in making sure there's a balance in the types of plants around.

Occasional Consumption of Insects

Although Cedar Waxwings mostly eat fruits, they sometimes also eat insects, especially when it's not breeding season or when there aren't many fruits available. Insects give them the proteins and other nutrients that they need to stay healthy.

Hunting Techniques While Hawking Insects from Perches

When hunting for insects, Cedar Waxwings fly around quickly and catch them while sitting on branches. They're really good at grabbing insects while they're flying with great accuracy. This behavior shows how adaptable they are in using different ways to find food that they need.

The fact that Cedar Waxwings can switch between eating fruits and eating insects shows how flexible they are in finding food, which helps them survive in different places. Their eating habits not only affect them but also have a big impact on how things work in their habitats. To learn more about the glossary of bird terms, it's worth checking out the resource provided.

The Synchronized Dance between Food and Nests: How Cedar Waxwings Adapt

Cedar Waxwings have a remarkable ability to synchronize their nesting with the availability of fruits in their environment. This synchronization allows them to take advantage of the abundance of fruits for feeding their young, enhancing the survival and success of their offspring.

1. Timing of Nesting

Cedar Waxwings time their nesting period to coincide with the peak availability of fruits in their habitat. This ensures that when the nestlings hatch, there is an ample supply of ripe fruits for the adults to feed on and regurgitate to their young. This strategic timing optimizes the nutritional resources for the growing nestlings.

2. Benefits for the Species

Synchronizing nesting with fruit development offers several advantages for Cedar Waxwings:

  • Optimal Nutrition: By aligning their reproductive cycle with fruit availability, Cedar Waxwings can provide a nutritionally rich diet to their offspring, promoting healthier development and increased chances of survival.
  • Increased Food Supply: The abundance of ripe fruits during nesting season ensures a readily available food source, reducing the energy expenditure required for foraging and allowing adults to allocate more time and energy to caring for their young.
  • Enhanced Breeding Success: The strategic timing of nesting enhances breeding success by providing an optimal environment for rearing offspring, ultimately contributing to the long-term sustainability of Cedar Waxwing populations.

3. Adaptation Strategies

Cedar Waxwings have evolved this adaptive behavior as a response to the seasonal availability of fruits. Their ability to adjust their reproductive timing based on environmental cues demonstrates a remarkable adaptation to maximize their reproductive success in relation to food availability.

This synchronization between food and nests exemplifies the intricate balance between ecological factors and reproductive strategies in Cedar Waxwings, highlighting their remarkable adaptability in utilizing environmental resources to ensure the survival and prosperity of their species.

5. Understanding Why Cedar Waxwings Eat Fermented Fruit


Cedar waxwings are known for their unusual behavior of eating fermented fruit, often referred to as "getting drunk." This behavior has fascinated bird lovers and scientists alike, who have come up with different explanations for it.

1. Why Do Cedar Waxwings Eat Fermented Fruit?

The consumption of fermented fruit by cedar waxwings is believed to be a result of their highly frugivorous diet. As these birds primarily feed on berries, they may come across overripe or decaying fruits containing alcohol due to natural fermentation. When they eat these fruits, the alcohol can affect their coordination and behavior, making them appear intoxicated.

2. What Causes Cedar Waxwings to Seek Out Fermented Fruit?

There are a few possible reasons why cedar waxwings exhibit this behavior:

  • Attraction to Aroma: Cedar waxwings may be drawn to the smell of fermenting fruits, as it signals that the fruits are ripe and sweet.
  • Nutritional Benefits: Consuming fermented fruits could provide essential nutrients and energy for these migratory birds during their long flights.

3. The Impact of Alcohol on Cedar Waxwings

While seeing birds in an intoxicated state may seem entertaining, it can actually have serious effects on cedar waxwings:

  • Impaired Abilities: Alcohol can impair their ability to fly accurately, find food, or escape from predators.
  • Increased Vulnerability: This behavior puts them at a higher risk of getting injured or killed.

4. Potential Threats from Human Activities

This behavior also raises concerns about how human actions can further endanger cedar waxwings and other wildlife:

  • Discarded Alcoholic Beverages: If people leave behind alcoholic drinks in outdoor spaces, such as parks or gardens, cedar waxwings might mistake them for ripe fruits and consume them.
  • Fermented Fruits from Ornamental Plants: Some decorative plants produce fruits that can ferment, creating a potential hazard for birds if they eat them.

5. The Importance of Understanding This Behavior

It's crucial to comprehend why cedar waxwings engage in this fascinating behavior for the sake of conservation and wildlife management:

  • Identifying Risks: By knowing the possible dangers associated with fermented fruit consumption, conservationists can implement strategies to reduce these risks.
  • Protecting Natural Habitats: Understanding cedar waxwings' needs can help ensure the preservation of their habitats, where they rely on finding suitable food sources like berries.

By unraveling the mystery behind cedar waxwings' "getting drunk" rituals, we can work towards safeguarding these beautiful birds and promoting a harmonious coexistence with nature.

If you're interested in learning more about animals and their unique dietary habits, you may find it intriguing to explore discussions on platforms like Quora and Reddit which delve into similar topics. Additionally, you can also gain insights into how certain ornamental plants could pose threats to wildlife from a horticultural perspective. For a more scientific understanding of avian feeding behaviors

6. The Ever-Changing Homes and Journeys of Cedar Waxwings

Cedar Waxwings are known for their adaptability to different habitats and their nomadic nature. Here are some key points to understand their ever-changing homes and journeys:

Overview of Cedar Waxwing Habitat Preferences

  • Cedar Waxwings can be found across North America, from southern Canada to the southern United States.
  • They prefer habitats with open woodlands, orchards, parks, and gardens where they can find a variety of fruit-bearing trees and shrubs.
  • Their habitat selection is closely tied to the availability of fruit, as it forms a significant part of their diet.

Breeding Range in North America

  • Cedar Waxwings breed throughout much of North America, from Alaska and northern Canada down to the northern United States.
  • They typically choose habitats near water sources, such as rivers or wetlands, where they can find an abundance of fruit-bearing trees.
  • During the breeding season, they establish territories and form small flocks that defend their preferred feeding areas.

Wintering Grounds in the Southern U.S.


  • In winter, Cedar Waxwings migrate south to escape harsh weather conditions and scarcity of food in their northern breeding range.
  • They commonly winter in the southern United States, including states like Texas, Florida, and California.
  • During this time, they form larger flocks that can number in the hundreds or even thousands as they search for food resources.

Nomadic Characteristics and Irruptive Behavior

  • Cedar Waxwings are considered nomadic birds because they don't have a fixed migration pattern or destination.
  • Their movements are driven by the availability of fruit-bearing trees and shrubs.
  • When fruit crops are abundant in one area, large flocks can suddenly appear en masse in what is known as an irruption.
  • These irruptions often occur unpredictably and can lead to significant population movements and changes in local bird communities.

Timing of Cedar Waxwing Fall Migration

  • Cedar Waxwings begin their fall migration when fruit supplies in their breeding areas start to decline.
  • The timing of their migration can vary based on the availability of food and the onset of colder weather.
  • Factors such as climate change and fluctuations in fruit crops can influence the timing and extent of their migration.

The ever-changing homes and journeys of Cedar Waxwings reflect their adaptability to different habitats and their reliance on fruit resources. From their breeding grounds in northern North America to their wintering grounds in the south, these nomadic birds follow the seasonal availability of fruits. Their irruptive behavior adds an element of unpredictability to their movements, as they can suddenly appear in large flocks in response to abundant fruit supplies. Understanding the habitat preferences and migration patterns of Cedar Waxwings is crucial for conserving these fascinating birds and ensuring the preservation of their fragile existence.

7. Conserving Cedar Waxwings and Their Fragile Existence

Cedar Waxwing Nesting Stats
Eggs4 - 5
Incubation12 days
Nestling Phase13- 14 days
Broods1 - 2

Conservation is crucial in protecting the fragile existence of Cedar Waxwings. As human activities continue to affect natural habitats, it is important to focus on efforts that ensure the survival and growth of these beautiful birds.

The importance of protecting Cedar Waxwing habitats

  • Preserving and restoring suitable habitats is essential for Cedar Waxwings to breed, nest, and find food sources. This comprehensive guide provides valuable information on creating and maintaining ideal habitats for various bird species, including Cedar Waxwings.
  • Cedar Waxwings are mainly found in open woodlands, forests, and orchards across North America. By conserving these types of habitats, we provide them with the necessary resources for survival.
  • Habitat preservation not only benefits Cedar Waxwings but also supports a wide range of other wildlife species that depend on similar environments.

Conservation efforts to support their populations

  • Land management practices that maintain suitable nesting sites, such as leaving dead trees or snags standing, can help sustain Cedar Waxwing populations.
  • Planting native fruit-bearing trees and shrubs in gardens and urban areas can provide additional food sources for these birds. For instance, this resource outlines native plant options suitable for Georgia that would benefit Cedar Waxwings.
  • Collaborative efforts between conservation organizations, researchers, and birdwatchers can contribute valuable data on Cedar Waxwing populations, migration patterns, and habitat preferences.
  • Advocacy for policies that protect critical habitats and regulate the use of pesticides can help mitigate the negative impacts on Cedar Waxwings and other wildlife.

By understanding the habitat needs of Cedar Waxwings and actively participating in conservation efforts, we can contribute to their long-term survival. These actions will not only benefit this captivating species but also enhance the overall health and variety of our natural ecosystems.

8. Embracing the Wonders of Cedar Waxwings

Cedar Waxwings are truly remarkable creatures that capture our imagination with their unique behaviors and stunning beauty. As we delve into their world, we discover a species that exhibits fascinating nesting habits, relies heavily on fruits for sustenance, and even indulges in a peculiar "getting drunk" ritual. Understanding these aspects of their lives allows us to appreciate the wonders of Cedar Waxwings even more.

Here are some final thoughts on the captivating world of Cedar Waxwings:

  1. Admire their exquisite appearance: With their sleek plumage, crested head, and vibrant yellow tail band, Cedar Waxwings are a sight to behold. Their elegance and sophistication make them a favorite among birdwatchers.
  2. Marvel at their synchronized nesting: Cedar Waxwings have perfected the art of timing their nests with fruit availability. By synchronizing their breeding season with the ripening of fruits, they ensure an abundant food source for their young.
  3. Appreciate their role in seed dispersal: As avid fruit eaters, Cedar Waxwings play a crucial role in spreading seeds far and wide. They consume fruits whole and then disperse the seeds through their droppings, contributing to forest regeneration.
  4. Witness their hunting prowess: Although primarily frugivorous, Cedar Waxwings occasionally supplement their diet with insects. They showcase impressive hunting techniques by perching and hawking insects mid-flight.
  5. Unravel the mystery of their 'getting drunk' rituals: One of the most peculiar behaviors exhibited by Cedar Waxwings is their fondness for fermented fruits, which can lead to intoxication-like symptoms. This behavior has intrigued scientists and bird enthusiasts alike.

In conclusion, embracing the wonders of Cedar Waxwings allows us to gain a deeper appreciation for these extraordinary birds. Their nesting habits, feeding behavior, synchronized adaptation to their environment, and unique rituals make them a truly captivating species. So next time you spot a Cedar Waxwing in your backyard or during your birdwatching adventures, take a moment to marvel at the wonders of nature they embody.

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