by Larry Czajkoski
“Sleek” is the word most often used to describe the silky fawn plumage of the cedar waxwing. A velvety black bandit mask hides the eyes, and a bright yellow band tips the gray tail. Older birds have red tips on the secondary wing feathers, which looks like shiny drops of sealing wax. This is all describing a quite beautiful bird! Cedar waxwings travel in tight flocks to locate and feed on small fruits, like the bird pictured here that I photographed near Apple Valley. Attracting cedar waxwings is best accomplished by planting the trees and shrubs they prefer – like hawthorn, firethorn, dogwood, viburnums, blueberries, cedars, and others with small fruits. These wandering fruit-eaters appear and disappear seemingly without rhyme or reason, descending to strip a tree of its fruits, then whirling off to parts unknown. The cedar waxwing’s only real habitat requirement is the presence of fruit-bearing trees and shrubs. Here in Western NC, we seem to be on the cusp of the year-round and winter locations for this bird. I’ve regularly spotted flocks in Lake Lure in January through April. But take care to notice them when you can. I recently spotted a flock eating berries off a holly bush one morning, and the next day that flock was completely gone….most likely travelling to parts north to give our friends there the joy of seeing this beautiful bird.