Waxwing birds are a collection of three different species, the Bohemian waxwing, the Cedar waxwing, and the Japanese waxwing. The waxwing bird gets its name from the bright-red tipped secondary feathers that look like sealing wax, although these are absent from the Japanese waxwing bird. The three species are native to different places, the Bohemian waxwing is found in Asia, Europe, and North America, the Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) is found extensively in North America, and the Japanese waxwing is found in Japan, China, and Russia. Waxwing family birds are omnivorous, using mainly fruit and insects for food, although they have a special liking for berries. They like living in riverine habitats in the wild and are also known to inhabit human settlements, being seen in parks and gardens as well. The Bohemian and Cedar waxwing species are listed under the Least Concern category by the IUCN, whereas the Japanese waxwing is listed under the Near Threatened category.
The exact number of Japanese and Cedar waxwings in the world is unknown. There are 14,000,000-29,999,999 individual birds of the Bohemian waxwing species in the world.
Where does a waxwing live?
The Bohemian waxwing bird is found in the coniferous and open woodlands of Asia, Europe, North America (Alaska through Canada).
The Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) is a native North American bird found in the orchards, residential places, and open woodlands in places like Newfoundland, California, Alabama, North Carolina, the Great Lakes, New England.
The Japanese waxwing bird is native to the coniferous forests of Eastern Russia and China, and it is also found in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea.
What is a waxwing's habitat?
The Bohemian waxwing birds like to live near lakes, swamps, and streams in the breeding season. These places have ample fruits and insects for them to feed on. When they migrate for spring and fall seasons, they explore scrublands or urban areas that are rich in fruit trees.
Cedar waxwings are North American birds that also like places with shrubs and trees with ample food and nesting areas. Cedar Waxwings live close to rivers and water bodies as well but may also be seen around orchards, farms, plantations, and gardens.
The Japanese waxwing birds like to inhabit similar habitats too, with it being found in open forests, low mountains, farmlands, as well as parks and gardens with berries.
Who do waxwings live with?
Waxwing birds migrate in the winter and forage for food in large flocks of 50-400 birds. Flocks as big as 3,000 have also been observed.
How long does a waxwing live?
A waxwing life span may last anywhere between 5-12 years in the wild.
How do they reproduce?
Waxwings reproduce by mating and laying eggs. These birds choose to breed towards the end of the year, so their nesting sites shall have lots of fruit in the summer. Before copulation, they indulge in a ritual of passing each other the same fruit. Waxwing birds are not known to be territorial but are protective of their mates. Nests are built on branches mostly by the female waxwings from grass, lichen, and twigs. Between two and seven eggs are laid, incubated by the females for about two weeks. And the chicks are fed by both parents after hatching, for three to four weeks.
What is their conservation status?
The conservation statuses of the Bohemian, Cedar, and Japanese waxwings according to the IUCN are Least Concern, Least Concern, and Near Threatened respectively.
Waxwing Fun Facts
What do waxwings look like?
The feathers and plumage of waxwings can be described as soft and silky. Their most prominent feature is the few secondary feathers that have waxy, red tips. They get their name because of this feature, except the Japanese waxwings which do not have these tips. Waxwing birds have short, yet strong legs which are dark. Their overall plumage color can be said to be brown and pale-gray. A noticeable black line runs through their eyes and the underside of their chins is also black. They have tails that have square ends and yellow or red tips. Also, their wings and crests are pointed. The bills and the eyes of waxwings are dark.
Waxwing size varies with species. The Bohemian waxwings are bigger than the Japanese and Cedar waxwings. They have gray on their bellies, yellow on their tail-tips and the red-brown wing stripes are absent.
The Cedar waxwings have upper parts that are browner and under tails that are white. Also, Cedar waxwings have bellies that are yellow and black eye patches that have white lines above them.
The Japanese waxwings have a red band on their tails and the black mask goes to the rear of the crest. They have neither the yellow stripes on their wings nor the red tips.
How cute are they?
All the waxwings are extremely cute birds. They are majestically beautiful with their brown-colored bodies and red-tipped secondary feathers. They are small birds that have beautiful cinnamon crowns and prominent yellow, white, black colors on them. They also have memorable faces with their black eye patches and dark chins. When absorbed, they're most probably eating their preferred food, berries, and singing monosyllabic and buzzing songs.
How do they communicate?
Waxwings communicate by calls and songs that can be described as buzzing, monosyllabic, high-pitched, and trilling.
The call of the Bohemian waxwing bird in flight and during perching is a weak and shivering 'sirrr'. The song is similar to the call and is a series of soft phrases, mixed with scrapes and wheezy notes. The Bohemian waxwing's call is lower in pitch than the Cedar waxwing's and the Japanese waxwing's, but it is less wavering and longer. It is best described as 'thin and high whistles'.
The call of Cedar waxwings is a distinctive, high-pitched, buzzy 'tsiii'. A flock migrating in the winter also uses a long and sharp whistle during landing and taking off.
The Japanese waxwing's call is also high-pitched but higher and shorter than the Bohemian waxwing's. It also uses long and short whistles.
How big is a waxwing?
The waxwing species is collectively 5.5-9.1 in (14-23 cm) long and has a wingspan of 8.7-14 in (22-35.5 cm), which makes them four to seven times smaller than the crowned eagle.
How fast can a waxwing fly?
Waxwings are known to be direct and quick fliers. Being medium-sized birds, they can fly at speeds of 25 mph (40.2 kph).
How much does a waxwing weigh?
A Bohemian waxwing weighs around 1.9 oz (55 g), a Cedar waxwing weighs around 1.1 oz (30 g), and a Japanese waxwing weighs around 1.9-2.1 oz (55-65 g).
What are the male and female names of the species?
As is the norm for all species of birds, the male birds of the waxwing species may be called cocks and the female birds may be called hens.
What would you call a baby waxwing?
A baby waxwing bird would be called a chick.
What do they eat?
The waxwing species collectively feeds on a diet of berries, cherries, other fruits, buds, saps, insects, and flowers with slight variations in diets among the three species.
The Bohemian waxwing likes to feed mainly on fruit and insects. It also adds flowers, bark, sap, leaves, lichen, moss, snails, and spiders to its diet.
The Cedar waxwing feeds mostly on sweet fruits, but it also eats flowers, insects, and sap. It likes to eat cedar fruit in the winter. More recently it consumes apples, pepper plants, hawthorn, olive trees, and honeysuckles, and red berries.
The Japanese waxwings have a special liking for Vaccinium berries as well as insects, fruits, mistletoe berries, Amur grapes, and other berries.
Waxwings themselves have many different predators such as merlins, prairie falcons, rough-legged hawks, Eurasian sparrowhawks, sharp-shinned hawks, Cooper's hawks, common grackles, bullfrogs, blue jays, house wrens, and humans.
Are they dangerous?
No, waxwings are not dangerous at all. They do not bother humans, but rather live close to and coexist with humans. The waxwing habitat destruction by humans makes them more dangerous to these birds.
Would they make a good pet?
No, none of the waxwing species would make good pets. At heart, they are wild animals and they like to forage and exist on their own in the wild. It is also not legal to own waxwing pets in most places, and it is specifically illegal in America to own a waxwing.
Did you know...
Cedar waxwings and Bohemian waxwings are not rare, they are found extensively within their respective ranges, and they are both species of Least Concern that show increasing population trends. The Japanese waxwings are becoming rare, however, showing a declining population threatened and being labeled as Near Threatened by the IUCN. They suffer from habitat loss and import by other countries, mainly in the EU.
The waxwing distribution changes with seasons as all species of waxwings are known to migrate in the winter. Sometimes because their territories overlap they may even migrate with mixed flocks and become vagrants. The Bohemian waxwing range expands in the winter season to places like Kazakhstan, northern China, Japan, eastern and southeastern Canada, and the United States.
The Cedar waxwings are North American birds that migrate in the winter to southern parts of North America and even northern parts of South America in the winter.
The Japanese waxwings are found in eastern China, Korea, and Japan in the migrating winter season.
Why are they called waxwings?
The waxwings get their names because of the secondary flight feathers which have red tips, as though they'd just been dipped into bright red sealing wax. However, only the Bohemian and Cedar waxwings have these red tips, they are absent in the Japanese waxwings.
What is a flock of waxwings called?
A flock of waxwings is called an ear-full of waxwings, or a museum of waxwings.
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