Birds - Cedar Bird
( Originally Published 1904 )
(Ampelis cedrorum) Waxwing family
Called also: CEDAR WAXWING: CHERRY-BIRD; CANADA
Length—7 to 8 inches. About one-fifth smaller than the robin.
Male—Upper parts rich grayish brown, with plum-colored tints showing through the brown on crest, throat, breast, wings, and tail. A velvety-black line on forehead runs through the eye and back of crest. Chin black; crest conspicuous; breast lighter than the back, and shading into yellow underneath. Wings have quill-shafts of secondaries elongated, and with brilliant vermilion tips like drops of sealing-wax, rarely seen on tail quills, which have yellow bands across the end.
Female—With duller plumage, smaller crest, and narrower tail-band.
Range—North America, from northern British provinces to Central America in winter.
Migrations—A roving resident, without fixed seasons for migrating.
As the cedar birds travel about in great flocks that quickly exhaust their special food in a neighborhood, they necessarily lead a nomadic life—here to-day, gone to-morrow—and, like the Arabs, they "silently steal away." It is surprising how very little noise so great a company of these birds make at any time. That is because they are singularly gentle and refined; soft of voice, as they are of color, their plumage suggesting a fine Japanese water-color painting on silk, with its beautiful sheen and exquisitely blended tints.
One listens in vain for a song; only a lisping "Twee-twee-Ze," or " a dreary whisper," as Minot calls their low-toned communications with each other, reaches our ears from their high perches in the cedar trees, where they sit, almost motionless hours at a time, digesting the enormous quantities of juniper and whortle berries, wild cherries, worms, and insects upon which they have gormandized.
Nuttall gives the cedar birds credit for excessive politeness to each other. He says he has often seen them passing a worm from one to another down a whole row of beaks and back again before it was finally eaten.
When nesting time arrives—that is to say, towards the end of the summer—they give up their gregarious habits and live in pairs, billing and kissing like turtle-doves in the orchard or wild crab-trees, where a flat, bulky nest is rather carelessly built of twigs, grasses, feathers, strings—any odds and ends that may be lying about. The eggs are usually four, white tinged with purple and spotted with black.
Apparently they have no moulting season; their plumage is always the same, beautifully neat and full-feathered. Nothing ever hurries or flusters them, their greatest concern apparently being, when they alight, to settle themselves comfortably between their over-polite friends, who are never guilty of jolting or crowding. Few birds care to take life so easily, not to say indolently.
Among the French Canadians they are called Recollet, from the color of their crest resembling the hood of the religious order of that name. Every region the birds pass through, local names appear to be applied to them, a few of the most common of which are given above.
Of the three waxwings known to scientists, two are found in America, and the third in Japan.