Altona’s Masked Bandit – The Cedar Waxwing

One of Altona Forest’s year-round avian residents is the dramatic and chic cedar waxwing.

Cedar waxwings are visually stunning birds with a rakish crest of russet brown and a black eye-mask. If you see one without ever having seen a photo, they look surprisingly elegant and exotic. They are roughly the size of a robin or a starling with an underbelly of luminescent and glossy russet fading to a yellow and the tail ends in a bright band of yellow. You can often see this flash of yellow as they fly. Their top-wing colour is a silky grey with bright red dots, though this is not always visible. They are often hard to spot because they love to perch high on the top branches of the trees but they are chatty so listen for their calls.

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Treetop observer

The social cedar waxwing can be found in small family groups to large flocks. The largest numbers can be seen in winter when they are feeding at the forest edges. In late summer, you can listen for their high-pitched ‘scree-scree’ or ‘breee-breee’ calls and watch as the juveniles follow the adults to berry bushes.

In Altona Forest the largest groups I’ve seen were at the forest edge of the storm-water pond on Autumn, however I have seen them in the north end and along the school grounds. Altona Forest offers them shelter, nesting sites, as well as cedar, dogwood, apples and plenty of insects as food sources.

Adult feeding two juveniles

The foods of choice for cedar waxwings are berries and fruit. A fruit-laden tree will often become a Roman banquet for these voracious eaters. Surprisingly, the adults will even bring fledglings to a garden if offered some of their preferred fruits or berries. You can plant some of their favourite local plants to draw them year-round – dogwood, serviceberries, winterberry, mountain ash, mulberries, apples, juniper, cedar and crab-apples. They have adapted well to the bounty offered by gardeners and will return to a favourite shrub again and again.

Have you seen these fruit bandits in your garden?

 Resources ~ Begin Your Reading Here

Life History:

Moveable Feast:

Cedar Waxwings in Ontario:


Eating Habit of Cedar Waxwings:

Altona’s Masked Bandit – The Cedar Waxwing ~ © 2014 Natasha G

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