Wildlife Lessons-Cedar Waxwings Play


“It is a happy talent to know how to play.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson



Last May, as I sat on my comfortable lounge chair recovering from surgery, I happened to hear a sound that was about the only thing that would get me up and out of that chair.  You see the surgery was for an abdominal hernia repair, and it was hard for me to get up, stand up or walk.


DSCN8070But when I heard the trilling and whistles, I knew what it meant.  The Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) had come back to my garden.  When I looked out to the tall trees in the center of the garden, there they were.  About 20-30 of them….they looked so excited to be here.  They had returned from their southern winter homes and were back to take up residence and find a prime nesting site.


It seemed they were hanging in my trees because they were all vying for time in the pond.  If you have never seen an “earful” or “museum” of Waxwings, then you have missed a treat.  Besides all the whistling going on, they are always in motion.  Moving, tussling, hopping, pushing and doing acrobatic moves as they catch insects on the fly.  And they are incredibly social birds too.


Whenever I see this “earful” of Waxwings, I think back to my childhood days when my DSCN8084siblings and I, along with the neighbor kids, would get together and play.  We would play these large games sometimes make-believe, sometimes with rules like Simon Says and sometimes just exploring down by the creek or digging in mounds of dirt for unusual finds like arrowheads.  And when we were together, you could hear us a mile away with our high-pitched squeals of delight.


I have written about the virtues of play before.  It is one of the joys in life we sometimes forget to practice when we begin to grow older.  And we sometimes think play is only for children, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  One of the best ways I know how to play is to cultivate a creative pursuit.  Dancing, singing, drawing, gardening, photography, writing….you name it.  If it is part of being creative, then it is part of the joy of play.


DSCN8570And you don’t even have to be good at it or worry if you are.  I never cared if my pictures looked great or if I used the right green to color in leaves.  I just had fun coloring or drawing.  Now I tend to care a bit too much, but I am releasing the arbitrary bonds I have place on my creative self.  And in that freedom, I have found my playful side again.


So when I see fawns frolicking or birds riding the thermals, I am reminded to play.  And it is especially easy to think of play when you I see Cedar Waxwings each spring.  Don’t they have the most beautiful coloring.  I love the browns and yellows so subtle.  And the little red tips on the ends of their wings.  But best of all, I love their masked faces.  Like a bunch of bandits riding into town to whoop and holler.  I want to get on my pretend horse, don my Lone Ranger mask and ride those bandits out of town, the hero of my yard again!


The Waxwings also remind me of those times, during recess, when there would be so many DSCN8064children screaming, yelling and playing.  A group of us would sneak off to the old apple trees, and gorge ourselves on dimpled, imperfect apples….much like these fruit loving birds.  Watch out because they will eat every serviceberry, winterberry, strawberry, mulberry, crabapple, and raspberry in sight… as well as the berries of juniper, dogwood and honeysuckle.


Cedar Waxwings are native to North and Central America, where they nest in open wooded areas (right behind my meadow) and winter in the southern half of the United States, Central America and the tip of northwest South America.  They are supposed to live year-round here in New York, but I have not seen them here in winter.  And they are supposed to breed mainly in southern Canada, but we have mating pairs here in central New York each summer.  Wherever there is running water (my pond with waterfall) and berries along with lots of insects…that’s where you will find them.  It seems my wildlife garden has become a great spot for the Waxwings to visit and dine.



Here are some interesting facts about Cedar Waxwings:

  • Males and females look alike.
  • Cedar Waxwings have been known to eat fruit that is overripe and has begun to ferment, thereby becoming intoxicated.
  • When there is a supply of berries that only one bird can reach, the Waxwings will line up along the twig and pass berries with their beaks down the line so that each bird can eat.
  • Cedar Waxwings are said to be named because of its fondness for the small cones of the eastern red cedar…..AND
  • Because the name “waxwing” comes from the waxy red tips of its wings that are said to possibly attract mates.
  • The oldest known Cedar Waxwing was 8 years, 2 months old.  It is nice to know that the same birds may return to my garden each year.



With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday.






I leave you with another thought about play.  Feel free to download this photo and share.

waxwings play

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

59 Replies to “Wildlife Lessons-Cedar Waxwings Play”

  1. This is so lovely! These birds have eluded me. For some reason I have never been successful attracting them to our garden. I’ve planted all the trees that produce berries they like and yet none visit. I love all your photos of them!

  2. I have enjoyed the reading of this post and your images very much. I loved how you mixed your memories and reflections with actual facts. I haven’t thougt till now that being creative is a way to play, thanks!!

  3. Bohemian Waxwings migrate here for the winter from Russia and Finland and settle all along the east coast but leave again for the breeding season. Sadly I have never seen one other than in photographs. They look very similar to your Cedar Waxwings, that must be very exciting to see and hear such a large group in your own garden.

  4. Wow! These are just great… I adore Cedar Waxwings… have planted several types of berries to attract them, and they do stop by, but I haven’t had this much luck getting great photos. What a treat!

  5. Beautiful photos, all. They are such charming birds, i think. They are active birds, never still–either cleaning themselves or taking a look around the world or chattering. You’re right about how much they love to bathe. I’m a bit envious that you are fortunate to host them for a relatively long time, their time in my garden is so short. Lovely post and thanks for participating in Wildlife Wednesday!

  6. Wonderful photos with such endearing childhood memories intertwined. Thank you so much for sharing them both, along with the reminder to play…

  7. Cedar Waxwings are as beautiful in spirit as they are in appearance. Your photos have really captured their colours and textures.
    I think that impulse to play gets squashed over time. But when we play we are most fully alive. Years ago I read Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and was really inspired. She reminded me to give myself permission to simply play and not worry about other people’s expectations or to get caught in perfectionism. And now you have given the same reminder! Thank you =)

  8. You have so many great pictures of the waxwings! They seem to stick around much longer in your neck of the woods than around my Texas yard. I guess that is in part due to what I have to offer them, or rather, what I’m not offering them. I don’t have a pond or other running water and only a few trees that bear limited berries for them this time of year. I’m not ready to take on a pond in my yard, but I should at least add a running birdbath/fountain for them and other birds that like moving water, and I definitely plan to add more berry-bearing trees and shrubs in the next year. Hopefully they will stay around longer this time next year!

  9. How lovely to see, and hear. Healing magic.
    My inner child is frequently the healthiest and usually the happiest part of me. I let her out as often as I can.
    I hope your surgery pains diminish quickly. Hugs.

  10. Wow, what wonderful images you have captured! These are beautiful birds. I’ve never seen one close up and didn’t know they had red tips on their wings. I enjoyed the facts you shared about them as well.

  11. Hi Donna, I love how you combined the merits of playing with the information and wonderful photos of the birds. I don’t know if they are in Nebraska, but I don’t think I have seen any. They are lovely creatures!

  12. Good Morning Donna, I really loved this post on the Cedar Waxwings.. I love that you can hear these birds way before seeing them. They are beautiful birds and I always enjoy seeing them. Your photos are awesome!

    Thank you for linking up and sharing your post! Have a happy weekend!

    1. I am hoping to hear and see more birds soon….as the weather south warms they will be on the move again…glad you enjoyed the story and pictures of the Waxwings Eileen.

  13. This was a wonderful read and one things I did not now was that they would pass food along a line if it was not plentiful. Your photographs are superb. You are so fortunate to have them visit your garden and it must be lovely to watch them bathing. Have a lovely weekend.

    1. I am very grateful they visit Margaret….and I am happy you learned something new….I learn so much from nature. Enjoy spring as it slides slowly in.

  14. Such a delightful post! Love all the wonderful photos. I am sure you were thrilled with the view when you rose up from your post-surgery bed to see them! Hope you are healing well. I enjoyed your comments on the nature of play also.

    1. Indeed these birds buoyed my spirits as I was recovering. Thankfully I am fully recovered now….thanks for stopping by Marie and I am happy you enjoyed the post.

  15. I do agree with your thoughts about play. Our children are growing up so quickly these days and never seem to have the time to ‘play’ as our generation did. So sad. Your little waxwings are quite delightful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your lovely captures.

  16. Oh Donna, I just love Waxwings! I have only seen these birds once – and it was love at first sight! What a fabulous post.

  17. I play a lot, every chance I get …especially outside in nature. But oh how I wish I could play at your house if it means seeing all those cedar waxwings. I have never seen more than four at a time.

  18. This is such a wonderful post! I love the photos of your waxwings. I think everyone loves this bird. I’ve had the privilege of seeing them on several occasions this winter, once as a quite large flock roosting in an oak tree in our front yard and again in a smaller flock out back. I have a feeling I won’t be seeing them again before they begin heading north, if they haven’t already!

  19. Great Waxwing photos, Donna! I don’t know if this is a “Lessons Learned” post, but it would be a good one. They are beautiful songbirds, aren’t they? Your wisdom is so helpful and encouraging. 🙂

    1. Thanks Beth….You are right, I could have used it as a Lesson Learned, but already had another post ready that will be published this Thursday just in time for spring. Hope you like it.

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