Cedar waxwings – Smooth, elegant birds

Cedar waxwings

I moved to the high desert a couple of years ago and thought I left some of my favorite friends behind. One of my favorite birds where I lived before were the cedar waxwings. I felt lucky when I saw one.

If I could use one word to describe cedar waxwings it would be “smooth”.  Whenever I see one I have an urge to reach out and touch it. Its tawny feathers ombre into a creamy yellow on its underparts and gray near its tail. The feathers connect together so tightly that they give it a silky smooth appearance.

Bird in a cherry tree

Facts about cedar waxwings

Cedar waxwings get their name by a unique feature on the tips of their wings and tail. They look as if they got too close to a craft project that involved melting crayons. Their tail are tipped in Sunshine Yellow. Small waxy droplets of Sizzling Red tip the wings.

They seem to wear a disguise on their faces. Black masks bordered with white frame their eyes. They raise a small crest of feathers on the tops of their heads as part of their communication. It alters their appearance so that they look like someone else.

Their voices are a wispy series of notes. I always recognize it even if I don’t see the bird. It is very high pitched, making them sound smaller than they actually are. One time I saw a grosbeak feeding one and thought it might be because it mistook the call for one of its young.

cedar waxwings

At some times of the year, waxwings flock together. I see specks flying high across the sky announcing their identity with their distinctive calls.  Where I lived before, I was happy to see one or two waxwing birds at a time. Now I see flocks in my yard.

Reflections

I left behind people I had grown close to to move here, but now I flock with different crowds. Sometimes they remind me so much of someone I knew before. Are they wearing disguises or did a special piece of my past follow me to my present?

Listen to the smallest voices in Nature

Listen to the smallest voices in Yellowstone

Listen to the smallest voices for they often have the most to say.

(Close-up of heat loving thermophiles near Dragon’s Cauldron at Yellowstone National Park).

Chatter

Black and white and full of chatter. No, it’s not a newspaper; it’s a bird.

Distinctive black and white plumage and raucous calls make this bird easy to identify. Its unusually long tail gives it a unique silhouette. A magpie.

Their loud calls are often heard in the wild places they live in. They are also master imitators. Is that hawk you hear or is just a magpie?

Magpie perched in sagebrush by Siobhan SullivanFrom a distance they just look like a black and white bird. Look a little closer. Their plumage catches every little bit of light and reflects it back in an iridescent glow.

Some see them as smart opportunists while others see them as pests. Are they using their voice and brains to get ahead or get under your skin?

Not everything you see in black and white should be taken at face value. Look for colorful reflections. Listen beyond the chatter. Forgive those who use what they think will get them ahead to their advantage.