Waxwings, Waxwings Everywhere


Cedar Waxwing

Waxwings are named for the red tips on their feathers that reminded people of wax used to seal letters.

With only 3 species, waxwings are widespread throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. They are the Bohemian, Japanese, and the Cedar Waxwing. Waxwings are in their very own bombycilla genus.


2 bohemians

(Bohemian and Cedar Waxwing)

Bohemian Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing

Waxwing species are hard to tell apart from each other, overall, they are grayish-brown, with patterned wings and a crest, so it took me a while to figure out which is which. Luckily, we only have two of the three species, so it wasn’t too hard. I have a few tips and tricks for you about IDing them: 

  • Bohemian Waxwings have the most colorful wings while Cedar Waxwings have almost no colors at all.
  • You are more likely to see a Bohemian in a large flock than the Cedar.
  • Another way is to look at their undertail coverts, Bohemians have rusty feathers while Cedar have white.
  • Look at their faces, they will look different even if all species have a black mask. The Bohemian Waxwing has a reddish forehead and cheek. The Cedar Waxwing has the least amount of black compared to other waxwings and the black has flecks of white around it.
Waxwing drawing about id and differences. By Dottie/myself
Black-and-white Bohemian Waxwing drawn by Lucy

Even with all these, it is hard to safely id a waxwing with out something to magnify it ( binos, camera ect.).


Where are the droplet feathers?| The droplet feathers are in the secondaries.

Are waxwings cavity nesters?| No, waxwings build cup nests like warblers and tanagers.

Do waxwings have any unusual behavior?| In my opinion yes, during the mating season waxwing pairs will exchange berries until one of them finally eats it. I observed this exact behavior in my back yard last year!

What type of food do waxwings like the best?| Waxwings love berries and even get drunk on the fermented ones!

Waxwing hawking

Do waxwings eat insects? If they do, how do they catch them?| Yes! Waxwings do eat insects. They catch them by hawking. Hawking is when they dash out and then return to their perch.

Can waxwings hover?| Yes, but briefly when feeding.

Will waxwings prefer certain habitats or will they appear anywhere?| I’m not exactley sure but I have almost always seen them in deciduous trees so I assume that they like certain areas/trees better.

Are waxwings native to North America?| Yes, waxwings are native to North and Central America.

2 thoughts on “Waxwings, Waxwings Everywhere

  1. My favorite bird… I remember one year guiding on the a Kisaralik River one landed on the fly rod of our 80 year old client Will he was fishing … no camera… dang…


  2. I loved learning about the difference between the cedar and bohemian wax wings. So interesting! I especially found it fascinating about the way that they play with berries during mating season until one finally eats it. You are such a great observer Dottie! Love you!


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