Cedar Waxwing

Scientific Name: Bombycilla cedrorum

Pictures: (click for larger images)

Cedar Waxwing, in the tree on the patio outside the Cooperage (in Ackerman Union), March 2005.  Photo by Jason Finley.
Okay, sorry: THIS is the largest image on this whole site.  But it's worth it.  Just try to count how many Cedar Waxwings are in the top of this tree in Dickson Plaza.  Many of them just looked like leaves from the ground.  10/21/05   Photo by Jason Finley.
A Cedar Waxwing greedily devouring a fat berry.  This was again in a tree in Dickson Plaza. 10/24/05  Photo by Jason Finley.
A juvenile Cedar Waxwing.  He's got a lot of growing up to do!  10/24/05  Photo by Jason Finley.
This bird's tail is at a weird angle, but otherwise this is a good view.  10/24/05  Photo by Jason Finley.
Another group of Cedar Waxwings in a Sycamore tree on campus.  1/21/06  Photo by Bobby Walsh.

Waxwings spotted and photographed by Julia Hicks on 2/6/06 at 7:20am in a pyrocanthus tree behind 447 Midvale Ave.

Waxwings spotted and photographed by Julia Hicks on 2/6/06 at 7:20am in a pyrocanthus tree behind 447 Midvale Ave. Cedar Waxwing Illustration

-Illustration by Robert C. Stebbins from "Birds of the Campus" (1947) by Dr. Loye Miller.

Description: Small.  6.5"-8" in length (beak to tail), larger than a sparrow, but not by much.  Whoah, look at 'em!!  The only bird you'll see around here with a crest (feathers sticking off top of head).  Sleek feathers.  Brown head, chest, and upper back.  Distinctive black face mask.  Pale yellow belly, and yellow tips at tail.  Grey wings and tail.  They also have waxy red tips on the feathers halfway down their wings, but you probably won't see those unless you get really close or have awesome binoculars.

Sound: Their sound is really the key to finding them: it's a soft breathy sort of cricket-like sound. Listen to a Cedar Waxwing calling!  Link is to the sound page for this bird from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds.

Commonality/Seasonality: Uncommon, and only here during Winter, through to early Spring.  They do, however, travel in large flocks (see the squadron of them in the bacckground in the illustration).

Location: Any trees with berries in them!  The type of tree that's on the Cooperage patio, on the slopes next to the Janns Steps, and in Dickson Plaza.  Entire LEGIONS of these birds have been seena mongst all the trees in Dickson Plaza (just east of the Royce Hall quad). I swear I saw about 300 of them high up in the trees there, and they'll come down onto the lower branches too.

Notes: They don't look like much from far away: just small light-brown birds.  But when seen closer they are stunning!  They're easy to miss; you could walk right under a clock of them in a tree and not know it.  They travel in flocks, so look for a large group of smallish birds (anywhere from twelve to possibly one hundred, which one former professor claims to have seen) frantically gobbling berries, and listen for the sound they make.  Their sound is really the key: it's a soft breathy sort of cricket-like sound.  Again, easy to miss, but magnificent when you do finally see them!


A flock or two comes in each year, generally in February or March.  Fifty or more may settle in the berry bushes near the Library and clean up the crop in a day or two.  Rarely they may come as late as May 15.

-Miller, Loye.  "Birds of the Campus, University of California, Los Angeles," from University of California Syllabus Series, No. 300.  Text by Loye Miller, illustrations by Robert C. Stebbins.  Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947.



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