Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing by Michael A. Seymour
© Michael A. Seymour
Bombycilla cedrorum
In no part of the world is there what we might term a "slicker, trimmer" bird than the "cedarbird." It is about the size of an Eastern Bluebird, and in general color is a rich cinnamon-brown. The belly and a band across the end of the tail are yellow. The forehead, the chin, and a line through the eye are velvety black. The secondaries have tiny, seedlike structures on their tips that look exactly like solidified drops of bright red sealing wax. The function of these peculiar structures, if they have any function, is unknown. But, the thing that really lends distinction to the waxwing is its long crest or topknot.
These elegant birds have been seen in Louisiana as early in the fall as late September, but not until late November do they appear in numbers and frequently not until mid-January are they overly abundant. By the end of March they virtually inundate the entire state, but nowhere are they more numerous than in our cities, where they come to eat the ripe pyracantha, camphor, and ligustrum berries. The flocks fly in compact groups from one food tree to another, wheeling and turning in unison and all the while uttering a high-pitched lisping note. When a flock alights to rest in the top of a tree, the crests are held erect and all the birds generally face the same way. Flocks often remain in the state until well into May, and 25 were once observed in Shreveport on the extremely late date of June 18.
Sometimes Cedar Waxwings eat so many berries at a time that digestion must be accomplished rapidly in order to make room for the continuous intake into the esophagus and stomach. Occasionally a bird is found prostrate on the ground, seemingly "drunk" from having consumed too much berry juice. But I am inclined to think that another explanation is more plausible. These stupefied birds always have their throats packed beyond capacity with berries or fruit, which surely must exert undue pressure on the adjacent blood vessels. The possibility exists that the pressure against the internal carotid artery, which carries blood to the brain, causes a temporary blackout until digestive action allows some of the food in the esophagus to move down into the stomach and thereby relieve the congestion. --George H. Lowery, Jr., 1974, Louisiana Birds

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