Sunday, May 3, 2009

Why They're Called Waxwings

Saturday morning found me out at Carver Park doing some banding for the first Minnesota Youth Bird Festival. As we set nets there was a lot of activity all around us so we had hopes for a good day and we were not disappointed. We had our first 3 birds pretty quickly and while we were processing the 2 Yellow-rumped Warblers (Dendroica coronata) and 1 Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum) that were our first catches, we watched bird after bird hit one of our nets which was just down the trail from our banding table.

When we got to the net it was full of Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum). All told we had a dozen birds in our one net. We speculate that the first bird in the net may have given some sort of distress call which lured all the other birds into the net. We got great looks at what I consider one of the prettiest birds around.

If you've never seen a waxwing close up you may not understand the origin of their name. The male pictured above shows classic waxy tips on the ends of 8 of his secondary and tertial wing feathers.

This was the only bird of the 12 that had the waxy tips. As far as I can recall I've never personally seen a bird with more wax tipped feathers than this one. It's not every day when Cedar Waxwings are our most numerous catch on a banding day!


Lynne said...

Beautiful photos to enlarge. It's a close-up view I've never seen before. I really need to get out and watch some banding.

Dale Forbes said...

holy cow, that is incredible, I had no idea they actually had waxy wings. what luck to catch a whole flock of them.

I once had a few cape whiteeyes in a net and the others just kept on flying in because of the distress calls. They were even getting caught while we were trying to pull their buddies out of the net - no more than a couple of meters away from us. I think we ended up with 30 or so in total!

Happy birding

Bisbee Border Birder Bloggers said...

Great photos of a wonderfully weird feature, Roger.