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BIRDS OF A SOUTHERN WINTER


Anne K Moore
Photograph Anne K Moore

First came the Robins. The resident Mockingbird tried to chase them off, but more Robins soared in and he gave up. Then the Cedar Waxwings arrived. All of them went straight for the birdbath on the ground. They bathed together; Robins and Waxwings filled the bowl.

As more birds arrived they ringed the edge, drinking and waiting for a spot to open up in the bowl so they could splash. Then they would fly into the branches of the red maple overhead and preen. Back and forth they flew, having a grand time in the water. This went on for more than an hour.

We have had a birdbath on the ground for close to thirty years. Losing the base was a lucky break. More birds, especially the larger birds, use that old top on the ground than use the baths off the ground.

Who said, “Birds of a feather flock together?” American Robins and Cedar Waxwings are usually found flocking together when they are on the move to their summering grounds. We see the Waxwings in our backyard, some years as early as November and other years as late as February. They are the friendly wanderers of the bird world.

Waxwings can be mistaken for female cardinals. There is a resemblance with a quick glance.

Waxwings and female Cardinals (Redbirds) both have a small topknot. They both sort of have the same yellowish coloring on their sides. A further look, however, reveals the black Zorro mask the Waxwings sport. Waxwings have black beaks. Cardinals have red beaks. In addition, Cedar Waxwings look smooth as porcelain. Female cardinals look a bit disheveled by comparison.

Cedar Waxwings’ name comes partly because of their diet of cedar berries in winter; they also eat juniper berries, and mistletoe, crabapple, and Russian olive fruits. My friend Julia watches them feed on Fatsia berries in late winter. They are also proficient flycatchers.

These sleek brownish/yellowish birds with the topknot and black mask are one of the most beautiful in nature. They are extremely sociable and flock together to feed even when they are nesting. There are no territory fights with these birds. Several pairs will nest in the same tree. While the flock is harvesting fruit, they will pass the berries down the line until everyone eats. This beautiful bird is all about sharing and caring.

Go to Cornell University’s birding website and you can spend hours, if not days, looking at beautiful photographs, listening to bird songs through Audubon, and becoming part of their Citizen Science birding community. Join the Great Backyard Bird Count in February. Audubon also has an online bird guide and apps for your portable devices.


Posted November 29, 2013.


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