michigan-wildlife

[5/29/15] Cedar Waxwing.

A magical encounter for me ~ after years of flipping through bird identification books and thinking, “Man, I’d really love to see one of these some day,” my wish finally came true. I almost stepped on this little guy on my way to check my laundry. After hollering to my husband to fetch my camera, I took a few photos then carefully approached it. I was wondering what I’d do if it was injured ~ I carefully raised my hand and as soon at I stroked it with the back of my finger, it freaked-out and flew off to the closest tree (our mature Maple). Since it could fly, I figured that it must have crashed into a window and got stunned for a bit.

Right before I found this bird, I had been thinking about my mental health, and how I didn’t realize just how bad things had been, until they were better.

These guys are supposed to be common in my area year-round, but as I said, I’ve never seen one before. After listening to their calls online, I realized that I must have been hearing them for a long time beforehand. They have a rather irritating high-pitched whistling call (online sound clips are more detailed than what I hear in real life).

Here are a few interesting facts about them (from allaboutbirds.org):

“The name ‘waxwing’ comes from the waxy red secretions found on the tips of the secondaries of some birds. The exact function of these tips is not known, but they may help attract mates.

Cedar Waxwings with orange instead of yellow tail tips began appearing in the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada in the 1960s. The orange color is the result of a red pigment picked up from the berries of an introduced species of honeysuckle. If a waxwing eats enough of the berries while it is growing a tail feather, the tip of the feather will be orange.

The Cedar Waxwing is one of the few North American birds that specializes in eating fruit. It can survive on fruit alone for several months. Brown-headed Cowbirds that are raised in Cedar Waxwing nests typically don’t survive, in part because the cowbird chicks can’t develop on such a high-fruit diet.

Many birds that eat a lot of fruit separate out the seeds and regurgitate them, but the Cedar Waxwing lets them pass right through. Scientists have used this trait to estimate how fast waxwings can digest fruits.

Because they eat so much fruit, Cedar Waxwings occasionally become intoxicated or even die when they run across overripe berries that have started to ferment and produce alcohol.

Building a nest takes a female Cedar Waxwing 5 to 6 days and may require more than 2,500 individual trips to the nest. They occasionally save time by taking nest materials from other birds’ nests, including nests of Eastern Kingbirds, Yellow-throated Vireos, orioles, robins, and Yellow Warblers.

The oldest known Cedar Waxwing was 8 years, 2 months old.”