For the chance to admire a flock of Utah’s most rakishly handsome songbirds, look to the sky or trees when you hear this call:
[Kevin Colver, Cedar Waxwing, Songbirds of Yellowstone and the High Rockies...]
That high, thin whistle indicates waxwings. All winter long, waxwings stick together in dense, cohesive flocks that fluidly fly and forage as one. Like locusts, a flock will swarm over a mountain ash, juniper or hawthorn, quickly stripping it of the small fruits that constitute their diet. They eat a wide variety of small fruits from berries to grapes to cherries. Cedar waxwings are commonly seen throughout Utah all winter long. They are nomadic; traveling to where ever fruit is abundant.
Some winters, Cedar Waxwings are joined here by their northern cousins, the Bohemian waxwings. Both waxwings are debonair, with a sweptback crest and an angular black Zorro mask. The name waxwing refers to a line of scarlet waxy droplets at the tips of specialized wing feathers. More likely you’ll notice the bar of lemon-yellow feather tips across the tail. Both of those colors come from pigments in their fruity diets. The body of the smaller Cedar waxwing is more caramel-colored than the grayer Bohemian waxwing. Bohemian waxwings have a distinct rufus patch of feathers beneath the tail.
Thanks to Kevin Colver for the use of his bird recordings.
This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.
Bird Recordings: Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver, Cedar Waxwing, Songbirds of Yellowstone and the High Rockies
Pictures: David Menke, US FWS Digital Library, Courtesy & Copyright 2006 Stephen Peterson
Text: Jim Cane, Bridgerland Audubon Society
Wild About Utah is a weekly nature series produced by Utah Public Radio in cooperation with Stokes Nature Center and Bridgerland Audubon Society. Archives of the program can be found at www.wildaboututah.org.