Cedar Waxwing An Intriguing Winged Species

The cedar waxwing, or Bombycilla cedrorum is an interesting and beautiful bird. It tends to travel a lot so it must adapt to its environment, and not to mention that it has to consume food that is predominant in those areas. The cedar waxwing also has to accommodate its habitat to the environment, in addition to competing and interacting with other species. Overall, the cedar waxwing is a beautiful bird with majestic colors ranging from red, yellow, and orange to grey and white. This species truly is a treasure to find.


The cedar waxwing has gained many adaptations that help it survive through evolution. As the species evolves and changes as a whole, they have discovered new hardships and have adapted to those.

Travel in flocks (Klein): the species has a tendency to travel in flocks. This is because it's nomadic, which means that it travels a lot. Since the cedar waxwing constantly travels, it encounters many different organisms, so as a sense of protection, the bird travels in a flock. Overall, the cedar waxwing is a relatively friendly species, but just in case there are new threats, it likes to travel in flocks.

Multiple cedar waxwings preparing for flight

Beak: the cedar waxwing has a short and wide beak ("Cedar Waxwing"). This beak shape allows the bird to swallow berries whole and get food within their reach much easier than they would with a different type of beak (Klein).

Cedar waxwing with its short and wide beak

Nest ("Cedar Waxwing" 2017): a cedar waxwing nest is usually made of grass, weeds, twigs, moss fibers, plants, hair, and rootlets. The nest is generally 6-20 feet off the ground. The male and the female do equal parts of the nest building, and it generally takes them about 5-6 days to finish building the nest.

Cedar waxwing nest illustration


In nature, there always will be a fight for survival. In a race to the finish line, only those who have the best adaptations can make it. Throughout the journey, species are pitted against other species to win the competition. The cedar waxwing competes for both food and shelter, and the species as a whole will not stop until they win.


  • Phainopepla: both species compete for juniper and mistletoe ("Cedar Waxwing" 2017).
  • Bohemian waxwing: the two species compete for juniper ("Cedar Waxwing" 2017).
Bohemian waxwing


  • Bald eagle: both species live in North American forests and fight because of the massive populations of both species ("Bald Eagle").
Bald eagle
  • American robin: both species inhabit North American forests and are quite populous in the area, creating a constant fight for space ("American Robin").
American robin
  • Common raven: both species reside in North American forests and are great in numbers, ensuring a fight for shelter and room ("Common Raven").
Common raven

Habitat and Range

The cedar waxwing tends to construct its nest in a variety of environments. The more general habitats of the cedar waxwing are open woodlands, orchards, fruiting trees, forest edges, stream sides, overgrown fields, suburban yards, and wherever berries are mainly found ("Cedar Waxwing" 2017).

Year-round: the cedar waxwing mainly resides in the northern part of the United States ("Cedar Waxwing" 2017).

Summer: breeding cedar waxwings tend to migrate up to lower Canada ("Cedar Waxwing" 2017).

Winter: non-breeding cedar waxwings are known to migrate south to the southern part of the United States, all of Mexico, and the northwestern tip of South America ("Cedar Waxwing" 2017).

Range map key for the following range map
Cedar Waxwing range map
Cedar waxwing range map

Food Web

The cedar waxwing is a part of many different food chains, and when they are all linked together, they create a food web.

Producers - organisms that use sunlight to get energy and make their own food (Klein)

  • Holly
  • Juniper
  • Dogwood

Primary consumers - organisms that eat the producers (Klein)

  • Cedar waxwing
Cedar waxwing

Secondary consumers - organisms that eat the primary consumers (Klein)

  • Cooper's hawk
  • Sharp-shinned hawk
  • Common grackle
Cooper's hawk
Sharp-shinned hawk
Common grackle

Tertiary consumers - organisms that eat the secondary consumers (Klein)

  • Red-tailed hawk
  • Northern harrier
  • Northern goshawk
Red-tailed hawk
Northern harrier
Northern goshawk

Decomposer - organisms that get energy by breaking down the nutrients of other dead organisms into materials like water and carbon dioxide (Klein)

  • Common earthworm

As the image below represents, the chain starts with the cedar waxwing getting energy by eating juniper, holly, and dogwood. From there, it is clear that the Cooper’s hawk, the sharp-shinned hawk, and the common grackle all get their energy by eating the cedar waxwing. The chain then crosses over when it is seen that the Cooper’s hawk gets energy from eating the sharp-shinned hawk. Next, the red-tailed hawk and the Northern goshawk both get energy from devouring the Cooper’s hawk and the sharp-shinned hawk, and the chain seems to end when the Northern harrier gets energy by eating the common grackle. Of course, the chain truly never ends until the animal at the very top of it gets slaughtered or dies naturally, but for now, the Northern harrier shall remain at the peak of the pyramid. As a decomposer, the common earthworm assists in this process by breaking down the nutrients of a dead organism, thus creating more space for the living organisms and using the nutrients to make simple materials such as water and carbon dioxide.


Every species interacts with multiple other species during its lifetime. The cedar waxwing also does this. It comes across other species and is either harmed by or harms the other species, both species benefit from the interaction, or one species benefits while the other is harmed. These interactions shape a cedar waxwing's life.

Mutualism - when two organisms interact and both benefit (Klein)

  • The cedar waxwing eats insects that aggravate humans. The cedar waxwing gets a meal and the humans are no longer disrupted by irritating pests.
A cedar waxwing eating an insect

Parasitism - when two organisms interact and one is benefited while the other is harmed (Klein)

  • The Cooper's hawk eats the cedar waxwing. The Cooper's hawk gets a meal but the cedar waxwing is deceased and wounded.
  • The sharp shinned hawk eats the cedar waxwing. The sharp-shinned hawk gets a meal and is benefited but the cedar waxwing has departed and is harmed.
  • The common grackle eats the cedar waxwing. The common grackle gets a meal but the cedar waxwing ends up injured and lifeless.
Cooper's hawk
Sharp-shinned hawk
Common grackle

Commensalism - when two organisms interact and one is helped while the other is neither harmed nor helped (Klein)

  • The cedar waxwing lives in a fruit tree. The cedar waxwing gets protection and shelter from the tree, which is unaffected by the presence of the cedar waxwing.
A cedar waxwing in a fruit tree

Mating and Reproduction

Like most other species, the cedar waxwing has both male and female birds. Although they look they same, they have different behaviors. To attract the female cedar waxwing, the male cedar waxwing does a little hopping dance and passes fruit pieces, flower petals, or insects to the female (Klein). If the female is attracted, she will respond by doing a hopping dance and passing back the object given to her by the male (Klein).

Pairs mainly form during spring and breed together in the summer (Klein). If a pair is succesful with one brood, they will try for another that same summer (Klein). Cedar waxwings normally breed at the age of one year (Klein). During hatching, the fledglings are weak and are born without feathers (Klein). Fledglings usually leave the nest after 14 to 18 days (Klein).

Cedar Waxwing fledgling

I am a 7th Grade Student at Oak Middle School. This page was created as a part of our project called Bird is the Word. During this project our team partnered with the Mass Audubon Society and Broad Meadow Brook to create educational materials for their fundraising event called the Bird-a-Thon. Each student chose a bird to study. My bird was the cedar waxwing. Below are some resources that I created along with my classmates. For more information about this project and other birds please visit http://7greenbirdproject2017.weebly.com/

Mini field guide page
Full field guide page

Works Cited

“American Robin.” All About Birds, Cornell University, www.allaboutbirds.org. Accessed 11 Apr. 2017.

“Bald Eagle.” All About Birds, Cornell University, www.allaboutbirds.org. Accessed 3 Apr. 2017.

“Cedar Waxwing.” All About Birds, Cornell University, www.allaboutbirds.org. Accessed 11 Apr. 2017.

“Cedar Waxwing.” Audubon Bird Guide: North America, e-book, National Audubon Society, 2017.

“Common Raven.” All About Birds, Cornell University, www.allaboutbirds.org. Accessed 11 Apr. 2017.

Klein, Laura. “Cedar waxwing.” BioKIDS, U of Michigan, www.biokids.umich.edu. Accessed 3 Apr. 2017.

Created By
Mahathi G


Created with images by James St. John - "Bombycilla cedrorum (cedar waxwing) 2" • Dolan Trout - "IMG_0912.jpg" • awsheffield - "Cedar Waxwings" • AcrylicArtist - "Cedar Waxwing" • BioDivLibrary - "n82_w1150" • fishhawk - "Dinner party" • Noel Reynolds - "Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens)" • klimkin - "bohemian waxwing hawthorn bird" • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Midwest Region - "Bald Eagle" • ibm4381 - "American Robin" • Bird Brian - "BVR_4091" • Elsa Blaine - "IMG_4014" • Peter Glyn - "Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)" • Dave Hamster - "Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)" • Ruth and Dave - "Holly" • byrev - "bush coniferous drops" • Counse - "Dogwood" • ibm4381 - "Yearling waxwing" • minicooper93402 - "cooper's hawk on wire" • Naturelady - "bird hawk sharp shinned hawk" • kengi2000 - "Common Grackle" • Becky Matsubara - "Red-tailed Hawk (Rufous Morph) [Explored 2/04/17 #448]" • regexman - "Northern Harrier" • jeff83180 - "Northern Goshawk" • audreyjm529 - "Cedar Waxwing Rehabber Update" • AcrylicArtist - "Cedar Waxwing" • gurdonark - "Cooper's Hawk, February 19, 2017" • nordique - "Sharp-shinned hawk" • C. L. Ricketson - "Common Grackle" • Seabamirum - "Cedar Waxwing" • Richard Hurd - "Cedar Waxwings 05-20-2012 133" • Saucy Salad - "Mates" • ibm4381 - "Young one"

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