Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Waxwing Invasion

Yesterday in the midmorning and throughout most of the afternoon, I was delighted to host an invasion of cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum).

Not only was I thrilled to have identified them correctly on sight (this does not happen all that often for me folks, cut me some slack) but I had great fun working on getting a few photographs of them devouring the berries on the weeping yaupon in the back yard.  While resting up from mobbing that small tree, they flitted to other fruiting yaupons in the back and occasionally hit a fruiting ligustrum which is just over the fence from us.

I was careful not to try and get so close that I spooked them from their feasting.  We planted fruiting trees for the birds, not for me to get photos of the birds, so I snapped away from a distance and then put my camera aside to watch and enjoy.

I'd guesstimate we had a flock of 20 or so working the trees around our house yesterday.  Predictably enough, though the trees are not completely stripped, today the birds seemed to have moved on.

I felt fortunate to have been home and paying attention for their several hour visit.  Not a shabby way to start a week, says me.


  1. Aren't they great? Remember, waxwings -- buzzed flying IS drunk flying!

  2. I'm so glad you posted the photos of the waxwings. I lived out east of town when I was a kid and we would have flocks of hundreds come through. I haven't seen very many in years now and was wondering if their numbers had declined.

    If the berries are over ripe and starting to sour, the waxwings, like the robins will get drunk and fall out of the trees. Mother would make us gather them up and put them in a cage until they sobered up so the cats wouldn't get them.

    If you look at the photos real close you can see some little dashes of red on the ends of their wings. It is little red, hard protuberances off the ends of their wing feathers. I only know this because I've held them in my hands and looked them over closely.

    By the way my web site is dracometalworks.com

  3. Lucky you. They are beautiful birds. I need to plant a weeping yaupon or two to attract them, although since our neighbors have ligustrum maybe I'll see some birds anyway (the only upside to invasive ligustrum, I guess).

  4. Pam: In my reading sources stated waxwings don't regurgitate seeds like other birds often do but simply swallow whole and "process". Wonder if that affects germination negatively (the other upside to having the waxwings eat the ligustrum berries). Either way, watching these birds was a total delight for me.

    Caroline, Bob, I tried to be a responsible hostess, it didn't appear to me that any of the birds were over enjoying the yaupon berries.

    I have seen inebriated squirrels after eating fermented loquats however. Worth the price of admission any day...

    I did note those red spots - really flashy - didn't know they were hard but then didn't handle any birds. Thanks for the website tip Bob - you have an amazing body of work representing your talent there!

    Thanks all of y'all for dropping in. Hope to hear from you again soon.

  5. How beautiful! I hope they're coming to my neighborhood next. I like your idea to get pictures & then just sit back & enjoy.

  6. How clever of you to snap them mid-bite so to speak.
    Lovely birds and I am surprised the berries hung on all winter with no other birds helping themselves for many a month.

    They are on their way to where? do you know?

  7. Linda: Thanks - I had to try for a happy medium. If I insisted on proximity for the perfect shot, I'd have spooked them away and that defeats the purpose of planting food for them. JoCo - I just kept firing away with the camera for a bit, hoping I'd catch something. The waxwings visit here to feed before returning further north to areas where they nest (is my rough understanding). Bob you got me to checking - the folks who track flocks are not noting huge declines - you not seeing as many/any may have to do with a lack of preferred food sources where you are?

  8. I thought they looked familiar.
    We had a flock a week or so ago and apparently they are on their way home to Lapland.
    They landed on our Rowan tree, but obviously out of habit, as the blackbirds had cleaned out the berries already this time. Thanks for my finally being able to put a name to them. Now if only I knew what yaupons are ....

  9. Deb, how fabulous! Cedar waxwings are the most dramatic winter birds and so much fun. I'm glad you got good viewing and PICTURES!

    Tell us more about the weeping yaupon holly. I didn't know there was such a thing. Did you plant it or was it living on the land when your house was built? How big, what kind of sun/water, any ideas as to where to purchase?

  10. Mornin' Ms Kat! I'd never seen them before but was there when a truck arrived and bought the weeping yaupon years ago from Barton Springs Nursery about as quickly as they could get it tagged. I am guessing if they don't have any currently, they will order some or help you find a source. I've been on their waiting lists, that is how I got my Meyer Lemon trees.

    The weeping yaupon seems to be as tough as a nontearful variety - appreciates good sun/regular water but ours was overgrown for years before we cleared out the oak canopy that was shading it and plodded right along. They are more of a taller columnar growth pattern than our other cheerful yaupons.

  11. The waxwings have been flying around here but so far have not stripped my berries. In past years they feed and then fly up into the trees and poop all over the windows and patio. I love them but that bit I don't like.

  12. I wouldn't like that either Jenny. Fortunately my yaupons are all well away from decks or walkways, situated in beds so any poop-de-dooing is simply free fertilizer. And no, that wasn't me being smart, it was simply luck...

  13. What wonderful photos you took, TexasDeb! I'm so jealous - they come for neighbors' ligustrum but are too far for my camera. We planted a small non-weeping yaupon about 20-ft away from the breakfast room window. After seeing Jenny's comment I now hope when it grows that will be close enough for photos but too far for flying birdpoop.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  14. Annie it sounds like you have your plant placement down just right. And if the waxwings are already visiting your neighbor's place, they will be happy to add your yard to their itinerary I'm guessing.

    Looking forward to some wonderful photos of your own! /TD


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Rollingwood, Central Texas
Family historian by default. Oldest surviving matriarch on my branch of the Family Tree. Story teller, photo taker, gardener, cook, blabbermouth.