Last night as I left work I noticed that the Cedar Waxwings had finally descended upon campus to clean out the remaining berries on our cedars. By dawn this morning, dozens of waxwings were working over the cedars on the northwest corner of my building, Ag Hall.
I really enjoy watching them hover-glean for cedar berries:
The birds seem rather attracted to a little puddle, courtesy of our grounds maintenance crews:
Inevitably though, the constant activity so close to the building was going to lead to casualties. It was someone in the building two years ago who alerted me to dead waxwings outside that got me looking into on-campus monitoring in the first place. Today, Ag Hall claimed at least these three between 9:30 am and 2:00 pm.
This gave me a chance to practice ageing and sexing Cedar Waxwings, and it’s fairly complicated. I first learned that the amount of black on the chin is more extensive in males than females, and I sexed the far left bird as a male and the two on the right as females.
The width of the yellow band on the tail is also greater on males than females, and our guy on the left shows this trait well:
The shape of those tail feathers is more tapered than truncate, however. Also, his primary coverts were narrow and he lacked red waxy tips to his secondaries. These characters indicate that he is a young male, and I aged him as a second year.
The two females on the right showed interesting characters too. The middle bird lacked red wing tips, had restricted black on the chin, and had a narrow yellow tail band. Her primary coverts, and especially her tail feathers, were broad. “After second year” female, this says to me.
The bird on the far right is a lot like the female in the middle but for one important distinction – a full 8 of her secondaries were tipped with nice red waxy bits:
If anything, that suggests to me that “she” might be a male, but her tail band, limited black on the chin, and other measurements were more parsimonious for a female. I labeled her an ASY female. At least we’ll have some interesting things to examine when these birds are skinned.
All three were, predictably, in excellent physical condition, with fat scores of 1 or 2 on a 3-point scale.
Edit: 5:56 pm – Even more dead waxwings.
After work I went out again to see if any new birds had struck Ag Hall windows. They had. By my count, there are now at least 8 casualties at Ag Hall today, and all since 9:30 this morning.
Here are the previous two birds now prepped for the freezer. They appear to be an SY and ASY male.
Here are the three more I found on the back up the stairs.