The Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) is a member of the family Bombycillidae or waxwing family of passerine birds. It breeds in open wooded areas in North America, principally southern Canada and the northern United States. Movements outside the breeding season are erratic, but most of the population migrates further south into the United States. On rare occasions it has been spotted in Western Europe, with two recorded occurrences in Great Britain.
Cedar Waxwings eat berries and fruit year-round, including arils of the yew, with insects becoming an important part of their diet in the breeding season. Its fondness for the small cones of the Eastern Redcedar (a kind of juniper) gave this bird its common name. This species is eruptive, moving south in huge numbers if the berry supply fails in winter. It feeds in flocks outside of the nesting season. When the end of a twig holds a supply of berries that only one bird at a time can reach, members of a flock may line up along the twig and pass berries beak to beak down the line so that each bird gets a chance to eat.
Birds in winter can be very confiding and will come into gardens for berry bushes and trees.
Its flight is strong and direct, and in flight it looks like a small pale starling. It is smaller and browner than the Bohemian Waxwing, which breeds further north and west than the Cedar Waxwing in the North American part of its range. The tail is tipped with yellow, or orange in birds that have fed on berries of introduced Eurasian honeysuckles while growing tail feathers after molt. Adults have a pale yellow belly. Immature birds are streaked on the throat and flanks, and often do not have the black mask of the adults.
The nest is a loose open cup built with grass and twigs, lined with softer materials and supported by a tree branch. Both parents build the nest and feed the young.
The calls of these birds include very high-pitched whistles and buzzy trills often represented as “see” or “sree”.
According to experts in the writing of Vladimir Nabokov, this species is almost certainly the waxwing mentioned prominently in his novel Pale Fire.