Friday Fact: The Wondrous Way that Waxwings Woo


My Friday Fact this week was inspired by an exquisite bit of grace that my husband Tom experienced about 18 years ago.

 I was changing a diaper, I think, when I heard Tom say, “Oh my God!”  My heart sank.  At the time, we lived in a house built in 1907, and something was always falling apart or failing or malfunctioning.  And “oh my God” was our typical reaction (but it was really more of a prayer than a curse).   So I finished changing the diaper and went out, filled with dread, to the little screen porch where Tom was standing.  

But his face was lit up as he told me what he had just seen   Our cedar tree had been completely filled with cedar waxwings which, as you can see from the picture above, are beautiful birds.  Not only that, but the late afternoon sun had set the tree and the waxwings aglow.  But he only saw them for a moment before the entire flock took off—arising in a golden spiral around the tree.  It lasted all of a minute, but Tom still talks about it to this day.

Cedar waxwings eat flower petals and insects, but they love berries the best, which is almost certainly what they were eating the day Tom saw them in the cedar.  In fact, sometimes when berries ferment, the waxwings eat so many that they become tipsy and actually fall out of trees drunk and must sober up before they can fly! 

They are very social birds and nest in colonies.  Cedar waxwings have been observed lined up on a tree branch, passing berries to each other along the row until every bird has its share of berries.  When males and females court, they like to play a game where they pass flower petals back and forth to each other.

Oh my.  I sure would like to see THAT.


4 Responses to “Friday Fact: The Wondrous Way that Waxwings Woo”

  1. wesleyjeanne Says:

    What a great post, Beth. Lovely memory, lovely information, lovely birds. Thank you for sharing!

    Your story reminded me of a spring day when I was young (maybe around 11-12) and my mom and I looked out our dining room window to see the grass in our side yard had turned yellow, and was moving. Looking more closely, we realized the yard was covered in goldfinches. Not only that, but goldfinches illuminated in the setting sun. It was stunning. We watched for a while as they fed, coming and going in small numbers and then finally being flushed by the sudden awareness of the neighbor’s cat watching from the nearby bushes. They flew up and away in a shimmering yellow cloud. We both still remember that moment.

  2. June Says:

    I had never heard of this bird. That they fall drunk from trees is too funny. And that they take care of each other by passing the berries is too sweet. Both of these have to be put on my wish list of a sight to see! Thanks for sharing this Friday Fact!

  3. Shannon Says:

    Is passing the flower petal a flirtatious gesture similar to the human’s game of passing the paper from lips to lips?!? Too cute. What a charming post, and a wonderful memory. Shannon

  4. ben (aka guitar maniac) Says:

    Very nice post … I saw a whole flock of them in a tree outside of school one day. Beautiful birds, with beautiful habits too! Sometimes they’ll be almost invisible (just as another cluster of leaves) until you flush them out; then you wonder why the leaves are falling up!

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