07.18.21: Waxwing looking around

Waxwings tend to be very active. They don't perch in one spot for very long. That makes it difficult to get photos. But I got lucky this time.

A distinctive bird dressed for a formal outing

Waxwings are very distinctive birds, with their shiny, silky feathers of brown, gray, yellow and black. They stand tall when perched, with their crest swept back stylishly above their black mask. Wing feathers have waxy red tips (that's where waxwings get their name) and tail feathers are tipped with yellow.

With the black mask, smooth feathers and colorful wing tips and tails, waxwings look they they are dressed for a formal occasion.

I don't have many photos of waxwings. But it's not from lack of trying.

First, even though waxwings are somewhat common in this area, I don't see that many during my photo-hikes in local parks.

Second, waxwings tend to be very active. They don't perch in one spot for very long. That makes it difficult to get photos. But I got lucky this time.

A flock of about 20 waxwings had congregated in a cluster of trees beside a lake, flying from tree to tree and occasionally dropping into a nearby bush to grab berries. I snapped some quick shots of several birds during their few seconds of rest. Then this one landed and sat patiently for more than 30 seconds while watching the activities of the other birds. I was able to get a series of shots.

I said earlier that the Cedar Waxwing's tail feathers were tipped with yellow. This one has orange tips. According to AllAboutBirds.org, in the 1960s some waxwings with orange tail tips began showing up in the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada. The orange tips are linked to a red pigment picked up from eating berries from a specific species of honeysuckle. If a waxwing eats enough of the berries while growing tail feathers, the tip of the feather will be orange.

Berries and other fruits make up the majority of a waxwing’s diet.  Waxwings flock to areas with trees and shrubs that have small fruit, such as dogwood, serviceberry, juniper, cedar, hawthorn and winterberry. But eating so much fruit can be hazardous for waxwings. The birds occasionally become intoxicated or even die from eating overripe berries that have started to ferment and produce alcohol.

A Cedar Waxwing looks around in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

A Cedar Waxwing looks around in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Jun 11, 2006 9:34 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 20D
  • Lens: 600.0 mm 
  • Focal length: 840mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/500 second
  • ISO: 1600

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