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BIRD OF THE WEEK
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Bombycilla cedrorum
POPULATION: 57 million
HABITAT: Open woodlands, farms, orchards, and suburban gardens, especially with fruiting trees and shrubs.
The Cedar Waxwing’s genus name, Bombycilla, means “silk-tail” and refers to its dapper-looking plumage. The species name, cedrorum, is Latin for “of the cedars” and reflects its fondness for the small cones of the eastern red cedar.
The “wax” tipping the Cedar Waxwing’s secondary wing feathers is actually an accumulation of the organic pigment astaxanthin, a carotenoid that gives red fruits their color. The tips increase in number and size with an individual’s age, and immature birds may show no red wingtips at all. Some scientists speculate that waxwings evolved these waxy tips to signal important information — such as age and social status — to other birds within the flock.