What are the 2 species of waxwings found in the United States?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

In North America, there are two species of waxwings: the Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) and the Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). These two species share many similarities in their habits and behavior.

The Bohemian Waxwing is a larger bird compared to the Cedar Waxwing. It has a gray-brown plumage with a black mask on its face and yellow-tipped tail feathers. The Cedar Waxwing, on the other hand, has a more sleek and elegant appearance with a pale yellow belly, gray-brown wings, and a black mask that extends to its throat.

Both species of waxwings are known for their flocking behavior. They often gather in large groups, sometimes consisting of hundreds of individuals. This flocking behavior serves several purposes, including protection from predators and increased efficiency in finding food sources.

One of the most notable habits of waxwings is their reliance on fruit as a primary food source. They have a strong preference for berries, especially those that are overripe or fermenting. This is particularly true during the winter months when other food sources may be scarce. Waxwings have a unique adaptation that allows them to digest fruit that would be toxic to many other birds.

During the breeding season, waxwings also eat insects, which provide them with essential protein for reproduction. They catch insects on the wing or pluck them from foliage. Insects are an important food source for the growing chicks as well.

When it comes to their range, the Bohemian Waxwing is primarily found in the northern parts of North America, including Alaska and Canada. It is a migratory species, moving south during the winter months in search of food. The Cedar Waxwing, on the other hand, has a more extensive range, covering most of North America, from southern Canada to Central America. Some Cedar Waxwings are also resident in certain parts of their range.

Both species of waxwings are highly nomadic and will move around in search of fruit-bearing trees. They can quickly deplete the food supply in one area and then move on to the next. This behavior is known as “irruptive” migration. Their movements can be unpredictable, and they may appear in large numbers in an area one year and be absent the next.

In my personal experience, I have had the opportunity to observe both Bohemian Waxwings and Cedar Waxwings during their winter visits to my area. It is always a treat to see these beautiful birds with their sleek plumage and distinctive crests. I have often marveled at their synchronized movements as they hop from branch to branch, feasting on berries. Their presence adds a touch of vibrancy to the winter landscape.

To summarize, the two species of waxwings found in the United States are the Bohemian Waxwing and the Cedar Waxwing. They share similar habits, including flocking behavior and a reliance on fruit as a primary food source. The Bohemian Waxwing is primarily found in the northern parts of North America, while the Cedar Waxwing has a more extensive range. Both species exhibit nomadic tendencies and can quickly deplete food sources before moving on to new areas. Observing these waxwings in their natural habitat is always a delight for bird enthusiasts.