The beautiful cedar waxwing — the 2020 American Birding Association Bird of the Year — brings many benefits to your garden, including insect control.
You may already be familiar with the cedar waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum. A member of the Bombycillidae or waxwing family of passerine birds, it’s 6 to 8 inches long and crested with a black mask and chin, yellow belly, white undertail and a yellow band across the tip of the tail. The red appendages (“sealing wax”) at the end of its secondary wings give the bird its name.
The cedar waxwing consumes mostly fruit and insects. It eats the berry whole while sitting on the branch, or hovering just below. You can attract the birds to your yard or garden by planting berry and fruit-bearing trees and shrubs such as juniper, dogwood, European mountain ash, pyracantha, cotoneaster, mistletoe, hawthorn, California peppertree, grapes, strawberries, mulberry, privet, yew, toyon, hackberry and choke cherry.
Cedar waxwings eat many insects during the summer including elm leaf beetles, weevils, carpenter ants, sawfly larvae, cicadas, scale insects and caterpillars. They may eat insects from leaves or by catching them in mid-air.
To attract the cedar waxwing, you may want to provide chopped apples, raisins or currents on a platform feeder. Make sure there is a water source available, whether from a stream, river or birdbath.
The cedar waxwing can be found anywhere except grasslands, deserts and deep forests. (Good news: They are generally year-round residents in the Pacific Northwest.)
They also inhabit orchards, gardens and parks. They seem to prefer alders, maples and dogwoods for nesting. These social birds form large flocks and can nest in loose clusters. It’s rare to see a solitary bird.
Nesting is generally late (not beginning until mid-summer) and may include two broods. To encourage nesting, make sure grass, twigs and other plant fibers are readily available.
Cedar waxwings are native to North America and Central America. They winter in southern North America, Central America and northwest South America. Their migration patterns are not well understood. For those that winter locally, you can provide soft fruits and berries to augment their diet. Be cautious to remove fermenting fruit when possible, to prevent possible alcohol intoxication or death.
The Cedar Waxwing is currently not endangered.
Keep an eye open for this feathered friend in your garden or nearby orchard.