Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cherry tossing school

I recently had the chance to watch some immature Cedar Waxwings feeding on pin cherries at Victoria Beach, Manitoba. This is always an entertaining sight because eating cherries is not as easy as you might think. A pin cherry might seem small but for a young Cedar Waxwing it is quite a mouthful. It is fairly easy to pick the cherry off the stalk with the tip of the bill (the tip is subtly curved and pointed to aid in this) but then the question becomes how to get a large fruit down your small gullet. The answer for experienced waxwings usually involves a slight head toss corresponding with a slight opening of the gape to allow the fruit to slide down the beak to where if can be swallowed. Youngsters have to learn the technique and it may take them a while to perfect, leading to some rather comical moments like these…

Now of course the cherry tree doesn’t mind if they drop a few and eat a few – just means more cherry trees in future. Luckily there are plenty of fruit on the tree and sometimes it pays to adjust one’s greedy eyes to a more realistic, i.e. smaller, piece of fruit. Also if they are a little bit shriveled they may be easier to “beakle” (that’s the waxwing word for “handle”)

So here’s how the adults do it – like a professional pancake tosser!

Sometimes with quite a bit of flair!

And not a bit shy of large beakfuls…

The Cedar Waxwing’s larger cousin, the Bohemian Waxwing (known in Britian as simply “Waxwing” as there is only one species there) is also an expert fruit tosser… here’s how they use the same technique…

In the cold, cold winter months when there are precious few species of birds in Manitoba, few sights warm the heart as much as watching flocks of these beautiful, crisply coloured Bohemians feeding on winter fruit still on the tree after the leaves have long gone…


  1. Amazing pictures.These are truly fascinating birds.

  2. These are beautiful birds
    I was just watching a huge flock of them on the tree in our back yard today. I often see them around and wondered if these were birds that stayed throughout the winter and now I have my answer. thank you so much for having these pix up.


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