Aug 13 2014

Late Nesters

Published by at 7:20 am under Nesting & Courtship

Cedar waxwing on nest, early August (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Last week Marcy Cunkelman found a cedar waxwing nesting in her garden.  For other birds, this would be a very late nest but for cedar waxwings it's right on time.

Waxwings build their first nests in mid June when other birds have already fledged young.  They start late because their main food source is sugary fruit and that's not available until mid-summer.  Yes, waxwings eat insects (have you seen them fly-catching?) but they only feed insects to their young during the first 1-2 days of life.  After that they feed them mostly fruit.

This early August nest is the pair's second brood.  In order to complete the cycle before the end of summer Mrs. Waxwing starts building her second nest before the first "kids" have flown, on approximately Day 10 of their 15.5 days in the nest.  By the time she finishes building, her first kids are fledging and she's laying eggs.

She's able to do this because her mate does the vast majority of the feedings.  He feeds her on the nest and he feeds the "kids" until 6-10 days after they've fledged.  In August he's one busy bird!

Cedar waxwings' dependence on fruit makes them highly nomadic with little site fidelity.  They'll nest where there's lots of fruit -- cherries, dogwoods, raspberries, crabapples, honeysuckle and ornamentals  -- and won't come back if it's gone.

Marcy has plenty of fruiting trees and shrubs in her garden.  The waxwings obviously love it.


(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Late Nesters”

  1. Deniseon 13 Aug 2014 at 4:10 pm

    My “non-birder” son noticed these birds “hawking” insects over a creek in Gettysburg and called my attention to them. Very cool.

  2. The Wild Sowon 13 Aug 2014 at 10:38 pm

    I saw a female cedar waxwing in my garden on Sunday. Haven’t seen a nest, but the neighbors 2 houses up have a BIG berry tree so I’m sure they’re getting enough to eat.

    I like the way they look — sort of like an “off-color” cardinal 😉

  3. Robon 20 Aug 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Best place to see Cedar Waxwings hawking insects this time of year is from a boat on the Middle Yough – between Confluence and Ohiopyle.

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