Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cedar Waxwings

In front of Auntie's house was a pyracantha bush. It had white flowers in the spring, which then fell off and the bush was covered in small, red berries by fall. And in the winter, when the trees were all bare and the fog hung low over the ground, the cedar waxwings would fly through. The sky would be full of huge flocks of over 100 small birds, moving with grace and beauty, resting on the bare branches of the trees.


And I would walk home from school to find the pyracantha bush covered with the pretty little guys. They would be in our yard for part of a day, and then they would be gone, the bush would be bare, and there would be white on the flagstone path to the front door.


And that would be the last we would see of the waxwings for the year. They flew in one day, and if I missed them, if I was in class when it happened, I missed them. They stripped the bushes clean of the berries that they loved, and they moved on -- being birds, they need to eat their weight a day* and since they travel in such large flocks, they can't afford to hang around where the food is gone. One of their loveliest tricks is when the branch that they rest on while eating will only hold one bird at a time, they will pass berries from beak to beak, making sure that the whole flock gets fed.

They have a cousin, the Bohemian waxwing, which is slightly larger and migrates in an unpredictable pattern. Otherwise, it behaves like its smaller relatives.

* Remember that next time someone says they eat like a bird!

In A Nutshell follows.

7 comments:

Deja Pseu said...

When I was a kid we had a house that had a long fence covered in pyracantha bushes. Sometimes when the berries sat on the bush, they'd ferment. The blue jays would eat the fermented berries, get drunk, and fly into our plate glass windows, sometimes stunning themselves, sometimes breaking their poor little necks.

Joy Des Jardins said...

I learn a lot from you J. I had never heard of the Cedar Waxwing...but they are very pretty birds. Thanks for the lesson...

Chancy said...

As a child I had a neighborhood friend who ATE the pyracantha berries from a hillside bush next door.

I kept telling her she was going to get sick but she would not listen...:)

Ginnie said...

I tell about the one and only time that I saw a bush covered with Cedar Waxwings in my blog of Oct. 1st, 2006. It was an awesome experience so I could truly relate to yours.
Also, I was fascinated when you commented to me about the Mongolian restaurant making their own gelato. Juneau must be a neat place.

J said...

MG, are pyracantha berries the ones that Grandma's sister died from eating, way back when? If so, Chancy was right to warn her friend.

Maya's Granny said...

Grandma's sister ate nightshade berries. Pyracantha have been rumored to be poisonous, but Wikipedia says they are not. They do taste awful, W says, however.

Ron Southern said...

I have a similar experience of cedar waxwings around here (Texas). They only fly in for a couple or 3 days, then leave when those berries are gone. I went from never having seen even one to seeing a dozen one day and then about 90 the nest day. Then all gone again! I thought it was interesting how half of a flock in one tree will rest facing one direction in the tree. In the tree next to it, the other half of the flock will all face the same direction as one another, but not the same direction as the ones in the first tree. I have no idea why, but I guess they have their reasons!