Cedar Waxwing

(Bombycilla cedrorum)

Cedar Waxwing © Owen Deutsche

Introduction by Nate Swick

Think back to the first time you saw a Cedar Waxwing. For many of us, this may have been a very long time ago indeed, as Cedar Waxwings can be found across the continent and in nearly every corner of the ABA Area. But try.Imagine hearing that thin lispy call for the first time. Watching a tight flock of small-bodied birds swoop into the top branches of a nearby try. Imagine putting binoculars on this bird for the first time. Seeing the dapper mask and the messy crest. The warm brown merging with yellow on the belly. The neat tail band. Maybe even the red waxy tips on the flight feathers.

eBird tells me that Cedar Waxwing was among the very first birds I encountered when I began birding. That doesn’t surprise me, even if I don’t remember that precise encounter. I’ve seen many thousands since. In flocks on countless Christmas Bird Counts or laying waste to the berries on any number of ornamental trees and shrubs. And every time I see one, or more likely many, of these birds, I think more or less the same thing. “What a great-looking bird!”I

In addition to having seen countless Cedar Waxwings, I’ve also had the good fortune to be with countless novice birders when they see them for the first time, and that reaction is almost always the same. The sharp intake of breath. The open-mouthed “WOW’. The same response as my own. “What a great-looking bird!”

In a recent episode of the American Birding Podcast, ABA President Jeffrey A. Gordon noted that the ABA’s first 50 years were about finding and identifying all the birds in the ABA Area. And that the ABA’s second 50 years should be about finding and identifying birders. In that way, perhaps Cedar Waxwing is the perfect Bird of our 51st Year. Famously gregarious, Cedar Waxwings are all about community. They share berries, they congregate at fruiting trees, they even occasionally over-imbibe. Birders, too, are frequently a social bunch. Gathering for monthly bird club meetings, at rare bird stakeouts, in online forums, and at birding festivals. Taking joy in our numbers. Making connections. Sharing information and experiences like so many berries on a fruiting holly tree.

“A Communion of Waxwings”, by Tony Fitzpatrick