The Cedar Waxwing (CW) can be found in Washington state year round but is rare around Union Bay from December through March. The CW loves fruits and berries. For the last couple of weeks a flock of 40 to 50 birds has been filling up on the ripe hawthorn berries on Foster Island.
When you compare the birds in the previous two photos, Do you notice any differences? They both have black masks and yellow tips at the end of their tails. The big difference is the coloring on their chests. The stripes on the bird with the berry indicate it is a juvenile bird that has not yet reached maturity.
However with an appetite like this, this bird should have a good chance of making it through the winter and reaching maturity.
Even the mature birds are stocking up for winter.
For instance it is a mystery what exactly this bird is doing.
Still there is a bigger mystery when it comes to CWs. Do you know why they are called Cedar Waxwings? The answer lies in the red waxy spots at end of the CW's wing tips.
Three of the red-wax spots can been seen in the first photo above, but only two on the second bird. These waxy spots explain the birds name, but these red spots create a larger more enduring mystery. Why do these secretions exist? What does the CW do with wax? The only potential answer found on the internet is, maybe they help attract mates, however there was no science referenced to support this hypothesis.
It is amazing that we can put a people on the moon, decode the human genome and send exploratory machines to Mars, but we do not understand the little red spots on a bird that visits your backyard.
Sometimes it seems that all the obvious, inexpensive science has been completed. If you want to learn something that no one has discovered it feels like you will need tons of expensive new technology. Here is an opportunity to discover something new. All that is required is a persistent person with an inexpensive set of binoculars.
Are you the one who will solve the Pretty Bird Mystery?
Odds and Ends:
This morning the Waxwings were seen at the southern end of the Arboretum in the Pacific Madrona trees. On Foster Island there were no Waxwings in the Hawthorn trees, however there were dozens of Bushtits and
thousands of berries.
The Bushtits were not eating the berries they appeared instead to be eating tiny bugs that they found on the hawthorn leaves.