Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Judd Patterson
Photo Copyright Judd Patterson

The cedar waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum, is notable for its diet. Whereas many birds occasionally or even frequently consume fruit, cedar waxwings are rare among North American birds in that fruit is almost the sole component of their diet. Fruits from cedar (the source of the common name), mountain ash, mistletoe, and from ornamental trees such as hawthorn, crabapple, and cherry are a few of the many fruits that are eaten by cedar waxwings. During the summer, insects are an important addition to the diet, providing protein.

Cedar waxwings breed across the northern half of the United States and the southern half of Canada. This breeding range includes only the northern counties of Utah. The cedar waxwing is among the latest nesting birds of North America, with the nesting period beginning in the summer between June and August. Nests are constructed in small trees by the female who uses a variety of plant material, such as twigs and grasses, for the cup, and fine grasses and leaves for the lining. Frequently, nesting material is taken from old nests or stolen from other active nests. Usually four eggs are laid and incubated by the female for about 12 days. During this period, the male feeds the female, and is often perched near the nest acting as a sentinel. Both parents feed the young at the nest for 17 to 21 days, until the young are able to fly. The parents continue to feed the fledglings for a week after they leave the nest. In fall, flocks migrate south following their food supply, some flocks moving south as far as Central America.


  • Witmer, M. C., D. J. Mountjoy, and L. Elliot. 1997. Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). Birds of North America 309: 28 pp.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American Birds, Second Ed. Academic Press, San Diego. 347 pp.