Just Passing Through…

Cedar Waxwings dining on fosters holly

I heard their high pitched whistles before I saw them on Sunday morning. The sound was piercing enough to serve as my early morning wake up call.  I hopped out of bed and dashed to the window to search for these traveling gifts from nature.  In the pre-dawn light, I could only see the dark silhouettes dotting the limbs at the very top of the sycamore tree but there was no mistaking the unique calls of this bird. The whistling bzeeee bzeeee, a little like a high pitched dog whistle, was coming from cedar waxwings, about 80 of them, dark against the sky.  They’ve finally arrived. They never made a stop on their fall migration but this small ‘aristocracy’ or flock of waxwings was making its way to their northern breeding grounds.

Acrobatic waxwings often eat upended!

I was so honored to welcome these well-dressed birds to dine at the foster hollies again. The three trees were full of red juicy berries waiting for their arrival. Cedar waxwings are frugivores, meaning they eat small fruit during the fall, winter and spring, but they are also invertivores, or insect eaters, during the summer months.  They are acrobatic in flight and are excellent insect catchers in mid air. I must alert my daughter in Maine that the birds are on their pilgrimage back to their nesting grounds near her. They breed around the lake near her home and entertain her as much as they do me. She once ‘saved’ a moth inside her home by tossing it from the back door… only to have a cedar waxwing snatch it in midair.

Click to enlarge photos

The fosters hollies are practically cleaned of berries today. They are nibbling on the seed balls of the sycamore and may linger for another day before they are off on their arduous northward journey. If you’d like to invite these well-dressed birds to dine with you, consider planting native fruit trees or maybe their favorite, fosters holly.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

7 thoughts on “Just Passing Through…

  1. This is one of my favorite birds, I love how social they are. And isn’t it nice that they do such a good job of clearing the old berries off trees to make way for fresh spring growth.


    • Les, I was overjoyed to have the berries cleaned from the hollies. There was one fella who is in shock though.. the resident mockingbird who had fiercely guarded the berries since fall. He didn’t sing this morning, poor guy. He will recover as he always does and he and his missus will nest in the holly as usual.


  2. I have had cedar waxwings visit, but only once, that I know of. That was 2 springs ago, and what a welcome sight they were. I didn’t have a whole flock–only 3 of them in my back yard. They drank from my bird bath, stood around for a couple of minutes, and off they flew. I have holly trees…(not sure if they are fosters) but they are all in my front yard. I haven’t seen them out there. Of course, there are many times when I’m not watching what goes on in the yard so they might have visited more than once. How exciting to have about 90 all at once. They are such lovely birds.


  3. Hi, I’m interested in using your photograph of the cedar waxwing (1st one) for a documentary series. Would you please send me your email address to discuss? Thanks!


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