It was a little piece of bird photographer heaven right in my own front yard. I had a resident flock of Cedar waxwings visiting my cherry tree for a good three days. Anyone whose tried to get pictures of these sleek little birds knows what a tough catch they are. Not because they're shy creatures, they're decidedly not, it's the fine hair like quality of their smooth pastel plumage that seems all but impossible to capture.
Mine was a visitation of twenty or so of the flashy little bandits that hung out in ambush positions at the top of the tall Poplars and Tameracks and swooped in at intervals to feast on what was left of the freeze dried fruit that still cling to the cherry tree. They didn't seem to mind me darting out from under a Blue spruce searching for the optimum angle like a caffeined up fashion photographer.
Wandering Gypsies that they are, the arrival and departure of an ear-full or a museum of Waxwings cannot be known. Unless your protecting a Northern cherry orchard they are pleasant company. I cannot think of another bird bird in these cold Great Lakes regions that has such a refined tropical look and courtly manners. It could be the North Woods version of Cupid or Eros so lovingly and politely do these birds treat each other and the world at large. I would recommend Bombycilla cedrorum as the perfect representative for Valentines day, so easily can they steal your heart!
From Familiar Birds we read this account from: Bradford Torrey (1885) who gives us this delightfully dainty snapshot of the cedarbird: "Taking an evening walk, I was stopped by the sight of a pair of cedar-birds on a stone wall. They had chosen a convenient flat stone, and were hopping about upon it, pausing every moment or two to put their little bills together. What a loving ecstasy possessed them! Sometimes one, sometimes the other, sounded a faint lisping note, and motioned for another kiss. But there is no setting forth the ineffable grace and sweetness of their chaste behavior."
Again from Familiar Birds: Alexander Wilson (Wilson and Bonaparte, 1832), writing of this attractive decoration says: "Six or seven, and sometimes the whole nine, secondary feathers of the wings are ornamented at the tips with small red oblong appendages, resembling red sealing-wax; these appear to be a prolongation of the shafts, and to be intended for preserving the ends, and consequently the vanes, of the quills, from being broken and worn away by the almost continual fluttering of the bird among thick branches of the cedar. The feathers of those birds which are without these appendages are uniformly found ragged on the edges, but smooth and perfect in those on whom the marks are full and numerous."
Please note: This is the only time I have ever seen waxy appendages on the tail feathers!
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