Fly-thru “Althing” of Migratory Cedar Waxwings

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

“Praise the LORD from the earth … fruitful trees and all cedars … and flying fowl.” (from Psalm 148:7-10)

CEDAR WAXWINGS EATING BERRIES [photo credit: Wild Birds Unlimited]

Each spring gregarious flocks of Cedar Waxwings pass through my part of Texas, as they migrate northward toward their breeding grounds. No “lone rangers” here! Cedar Waxwings travel in flocks of many dozens–sometimes even hundreds–synchronizing their fast-food stopovers along the way, to refuel for the next aerial leg of their migratory trek. And trees or bushes with red berries are a particular favorite of Cedar Waxwings. Although the nutritional details are a bit technical — as noted below* — waxwings need to balance their sour berry intake with protein-rich pollen, both of which are available during mid-April in my part of Texas, as the flocks of Cedar Waxwings pass through in their flights northward.

So, when these large flocks of colorful waxwings make a “pit stop” for fast-food they often fill the branches of trees as they hastily consume red berries (and other edible nutrients), just before resuming their northbound flights to their spring-through-summer breeding ranges.

On April 7th A.D.2023, a Friday morning, as I observed this hastily convened arboreal assembly of avian migrants, I thought of the traditional assemblies (“things”) of the Vikings — such as those Nordic congregants convened annually in Iceland (Thingvellir’s “Althing”) and on the Isle of Man (at the Manx “Tynwald”), to conduct the serious business of life. Could it be that these Cedar Waxwings were having their own version of an Althing assembly, as they refueled (and rested briefly) during their stopover in the branches of my trees and bushes? Since I cannot understand the language of Cedar Waxwings I cannot know what they conversed about — but I knew that they would vacate northward soon enough, so I would not see them again until the next seasonal migratory pass-through, as they live out the providential phenology of their migratory lifestyle.

What a privilege it was to see God’s Cedar Waxwings–scores of them (perhaps more than a hundred!) as a flock in transit–quickly visiting the trees and bushes on the south side of my home. Surely God’s birds will remind us of His care for us, if we take the time to think about it–and have eyes to see (Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:24).

In fact, that faith lesson (which is was taught, in ancient times, to the patriarch Job, by God Himself (in Job 38:41), as is noted in the first of the 3 apologetics lectures (shown below) that I gave recently, to a Swedish theology school (Skandinavisk Teologisk Högskola):

God’s Creation Sermon in Job 39: Learning from God’s Animals:

Viking Skeletons Embarrass Carbon 14 Radiometric Dating:

Why Study Grass and Flowers? Learning from God’s Plants:

CEDAR WAXWINGS [photo credit: Museum of Life & Science, Durham, N.C.]

So, now for a limerick, that memorializes my observations of the flock of Cedar Waxwings that briefly visited my frontyard earlier this month:


A flock-full of birds, in my trees,

Gulped down every berry they’d seize;

This arboreal Althing

of the Cedar Waxwing

Soon adjourned—dispersed with the breeze!

CEDAR WAXWINGS photo credit: Mary Anne Borge / The Natural Web

[*For technical information, befitting Cornell University, about the diet of Cedar Waxwings, see Mark C. Witmer’s “Nutritional Interactions and Fruit Removal: Cedar Waxwing Consumption of Viburnum opulus Fruits in Spring”, ECOLOGY, 82(11):3120-3130 (November 2001).]

Cedar Waxwings: Winter Texans Snack on Bugs and Berries

Cedar-Waxwing-with-redcedar-seed-cone. ©GaryBrady

Cedar-Waxwing-with-redcedar-seed-cone. ©GaryBrady

Cedar Waxwings: Winter Texans Snack on Bugs and Berries

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

But he himself [i.e., Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.  And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baked on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid himself down again.  (1st Kings 19:4-6)

The above Scripture reports how the persecuted prophet Elijah, a fugitive fleeing Queen Jezebel, was miraculously fed a hot meal, by an angel, under a juniper tree. But the bird featured herein — CEDAR WAXWING (see feature photo by Gary Brady, above) — would need no miracle or angel to find food at a juniper tree, because the Cedar Waxwing’s diet is famous for including “juniper berries”, a nickname given to the evergreen redcedar tree’s seed cones (that are signified by the Cedar Waxwing’s name).

Cedar Waxwing with redcedar seed cone (a/k/a “juniper berry”)

Fair Use credit:  Missouri Dep’t of Conservation photo

Cedar Waxwings are insectivorous –  they often resemble flycatchers as they pursue and capture their aerial insect prey; in fact, insects are their main diet when berries are unavailable.  However, Cedar Waxwings thrive on seeds, including redcedar cones (nicknamed “juniper berries”), which are berry-like female seed cones.  (Each seed cone, technically called a megastrobilus, is bluish-purple within a waxy-whitish envelope, appearing somewhat like blueberries if seen in its wax coating.)  Cedar Waxwings also enjoy eating available fruits (e.g., apples) and a variety of perennial plant berries, especially during winter, when insects are mostly unavailable.  [See, accord, Thomas Alerstam, BIRD MIGRATION (Cambridge University Press, 1993), pages 167, 182, 195, 203.] juniper-berries-with-needleleaves.Wikipedia

Juniper “berries” with evergreen needle-leaves (Wikipedia photo)

Cedar Waxwings are very social passerines – they are even known to share berries, passing them from one bird to another (form beak to beak) in a line, so that each waxwing gets its share of the berries. [See Robert Rice, “The Moveable Feaster: Cedar Waxwing”, Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute (May 1st 1997), posted at .]   As gregarious birds, Cedar Waxwings travel—and stopover—in compact flocks.  This “caravan”-style migration is noted in the following birdwatching limerick of mine (which commemorates my observations of them, perching as a group, on April 1st (of AD2017):


Humankind, earthbound, lacks wings;

Unlike us, though, Cedar Waxwings,

Like migratory troops,

Stopping over in groups  –

Passing through, Cedar Waxwings.

[See also, comment on seeing waxwing stopover,  — posted 4-1-AD2017.]


Flock of perching “winter Texan” Cedar Waxwings   (Steven Schwartzman photo)

Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) are well-known crested migrants of North America (and to the Caribbean, and even as far south as Panama), yet their larger “cousins” — Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrula) — live and migrate within both North America and Europe. [See Thomas Alerstam, BIRD MIGRATION (Cambridge University Press, 1993), pages 164, 316, 337.]


Cedar Waxwings perching in Wisconsin   (Mike McDowell photo)

Cedar Waxwings themselves are widespread migrants, migrating phenologically with seasonal weather cycles. Roger Tory Peterson summarizes the Cedar Waxwing’s broad migratory range (in North America and the Caribbean) as follows:

Where found:  Se. Alaska, cent. Canada south to n. California, w. Oklahoma, and Georgia.  Winters from s. Canada to Panama, West Indies. Texas: Winters (Oct.-June) throughout. Habitat: Various; semi-open, wooded, towns, etc.

[Quoting Roger Tory Peterson, BIRDS OF TEXAS: A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF TEXAS AND ADJACENT STATES (Houghton Mifflin / Peterson Field Guides, 1988), page 191.]   Yet think about the marvels of migration – it’s easier to pronounce the word than it is to successfully accomplish the aerial journey!  For starters, what kind of weather is right for migration?

Which factors govern the migrants’ choice of migration weather?

Three such factors can be considered to be of great importance:  the living conditions in the area the birds are leaving, the living conditions in the area for which they are heading, and the flying conditions during the migration itself.

If the birds’ choice of migration weather were mainly an adaptation [i.e., providentially prepared-for response] to the conditions in the area they are leaving, then in the first place cold, frost, snow and formation of ice, [i.e.] weather factors which make their living conditions considerably worse, ought to trigger emigration.  Similar weather in the destination area, if it could be foreseen by the birds, naturally ought to have the effect of deterring migration [i.e., immigration to the new location].

Where the flying conditions during the migration are concerned, two factors are of the greatest importance to the birds:  they should carry out the flight as economically as possible from an energy [consumption] point of view[,] and they should avoid weather which may lead to [navigational] orientation problems.  The first factor is provided for if the birds choose tail winds, and the second if they avoid flying in rain, fog and dense cloud[s].  That precisely those points, tail winds and avoiding of areas of rain, usually are key factors for intensive migration has been confirmed.  We can therefore draw the conclusion that the migrants’ reactions to weather, those reactions that determine the variation in migration intensity from day to day, in general (but not always, see below) are an adaptation [i.e., providentially prepared-for response] to good flying conditions in the area they start from or finish in.

Occasions arise, however, when birds are driven [by instinct or something else] to migrate by degenerated living conditions or are held back by poor prospects in the area of their destination [yet only if it can be assumed that, somehow, they already know that their destination is ill-equipped to host their arrival upon immigration]. They are then forced to waive [i.e., risk] the need for energy savings and safety during the flight itself.

[Quoting Thomas Alerstam, BIRD MIGRATION (Cambridge University Press, 1993), page 316.]


Cedar Waxwing in the snow   (Fair Use/Public Domain: photo by anonymous retiree)

In fact, waxwings are resilient, able to tough out winter weather when they must.

Some birds attempt to overwinter in northern regions so long as it is [relatively] mild and they can find food. When the cold, the frost and the snow step in with full force, however, they have no alternative but to leave on winter migration.  This can be observed at Falsterbo [in Skåne, Sweden], for example, during periods of severe winter weather:  crows, finches, larks, starlings, gulls, ducks and geese leave southern Sweden and head out over the sea in a southwesterly direction towards milder regions.

Sometimes the [migratory] passage goes on in blizzard conditions, as for example on the December morning with whirling snow, less than 50 m visibility and wind strengths of over 15 m/s [i.e., > 30 mph] when Gunnar Roos logged emigration at Falsterbo of Fieldfare, Starling, Skylark, [Bohemian] Waxwing and Common Gull.

[Quoting Thomas Alerstam, BIRD MIGRATION (Cambridge University Press, 1993), page 316.]

Cedar Waxwings sharing food   (Fair Use credit; Wild for Wildlife photo)

So there you have it: Cedar Waxwings, on the move, migrating huge distances twice a year, alternating between summer and winter ranges.  Mealtimes involve a mix of snapping up fruits fallen to the ground, or happily eating (and sometimes sharing) seeds and berries while perching en banc in tree branches, or snatching “fast food” insects on the wing.  Lots of air miles for this crested traveler  — migrating with its group (and taking group “rest stops” along the way), and casually sharing the “wealth” and enjoying one another’s company, gregariously illustrating the airborne and passerine equivalents of Amos 3:3.   ><> JJSJ


Cedar Waxwing with berry (Smithsonian Nat’l Zoo photo)

Lee’s One Word Monday – 4/4/16


Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) Passing Berries ©WikiC



“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 KJV)

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) Passing Berries ©WikiC


More Daily Devotionals










Holiday Spirit from Dawn’s Bloggy Blog

My friend, Dawn, who writes the Dawn’s Bloggy Blog, posted this and thought you might enjoy it. We met a few years ago at the Birding Festival in Titusville, FL. They travel in a motorhome and she never seems to run out of interesting adventures.

These are Cedar Waxwings drinking. A sparrow and an American Robin also show up.

If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: (Pro 25:21)

Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (Joh 4:13-14)

To learn more about Waxwings see:

Cedar Waxwing – by A. J. Mithra
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Cedar Waxwing
Bombycillidae – Waxwings


Cedar Waxwing – by A. J. Mithra

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) by J Fenton

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) by J Fenton

The Cedar Waxwing is one of the
few North American birds
that specializes in eating fruit.
It can survive on fruit alone
for several months…
The birds’ name derives
from their appetite
for cedar berries in winter…

Cedar is used in the temple
for purification..
Our body is the temple of GOD..
This bird seems to ask us
if we are leading a holy and pure life
isn’t it?

and he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water, and with the living bird, and with the cedar wood, and with the hyssop, and with the scarlet:  (Leviticus 14:53)

Cedar Waxwings inhabit
particularly along streams,,,
When JESUS comes into us
we will always dwell by the
Living Waters…

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. ( Psalm 1:3)

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) by Daves BirdingPix

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) by Daves BirdingPix

The orange color is the result
of a red pigment picked up
from the berries of a
species of honeysuckle.
If a waxwing eats
enough of the berries
while growing its tail feathers
the tip of its feathers will be orange…

It is by HIS blood
that we are cleansed
and by HIS grace we become
more like HIM…
When “I” becomes less
and “JESUS” becomes more,
we would be like JESUS..
If these birds can pick up
the red color from the berries they eat,
don’t you think that we would
become more like JESUS
when we eat more of THE WORD,

By the way,
did you eat THE BREAD today?

Yours in YESHUA,
A. J. Mithra

Please visit us at: Crosstree

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) by Ian

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) by Ian

Ian’s February 9, 2009 Newsletter

An American birder once said to me something to this effect: “you’re so lucky in Australia, all our North American birds are so drab by comparison”. It may be the case that American Parrots are thin on the ground since the sad demise of the Carolina Parakeet, but I think, nonetheless, that there are lots of fascinating American birds, and I’ve expressed regret in the past for the lack of Woodpeckers in Australia, for example. Here is one that is exotic by any standards, the Cedar Waxwing, and is quite common across the United States and, in summer, southern Canada.

This bird was one of a flock in a small reserve (McClellan Ranch Park) on the edge of Cupertino in the Bay Area last May. Waxwings are very partial to berries and range widely looking for food. The get their name from red, waxy tips to the secondaries, but these are often indistinct or missing, and are not visible in the photograph.

There are three species of Waxwings, the other two being the Japanese Waxwing and the (Bohemian) Waxwing of Western North America and northern Eurasia. The Bohemian Waxwing, slightly larger than the Cedar one, occasionally makes it to the British Isles in winter from northern Scandinavia and I remember seeing some once as a teenager in a suburban street in Dublin in the early 1960s. They looked very exotic to me then too.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) by Ian

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) by Ian

Here in North Queensland, we have felt very helpless watching the rain deluging down while terrible bush fires have raged in Victoria. The website has benefitted, though, from my being confined to home. In the past week I’ve updated the galleries for Wrens (, Mockingbirds (, Tits and Chickadees (, Cormorants and Shags (, and Grebes (

Best wishes,

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email:

Japanese Waxwing (Bombycilla japonica) ©Wikipedia

Japanese Waxwing (Bombycilla japonica) ©Wikipedia

Lee’s Additions:

Cedar Waxwings have a diet of “fruit, flower petals, and insects.” They sometimes pass fruit back and forth and have been known to become very intoxicated by eating too many ripe berries. They are about 7 in (17.8 cm) long with a wingspan of 11-12.25 in (27.9-31.1 cm). Both the Bohemian and Cedar have a yellow trim on their tails, whereas, the Japanese waxwing has a red-trimmed tail.

See (Info and Sounds):

Bombyacillidae – Waxwings
Cedar Waxwing –
Bohemian Waxwing –
Japanese Waxwing – Wikipedia