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Waxwings in the Mulberries

Posted Jun 14 2013 12:00am
For the past few days, a flock of cedar waxwings has visited our Littleton farm, heading straight for the mulberry trees.  We have four white mulberry trees and one weeping mulberry; all produce copious fruit and thrive in the semiarid environment of the Front Range (since moving to the farm in 1990, I have never watered those trees).

The presence of the waxwings, as usual, was indicated by their soft, high-pitched whistles (as well as by the squabbling of robins that resented their competition).  While the truculent robins did their best to discourage the waxwings, the beautiful and tranquil visitors awaited their opportunity in nearby trees, dropping in to ingest a few berries when the robins were preoccupied.  At times, they would turn to flycatching from other trees on our property, returning to the mulberries when the robins moved on.  Indeed, while cedar waxwings prefer fruit, they supplement that diet with insects and flower petals during the warmer months.

Highly social, waxwings move about in flocks, turning up to feast on berry crops when the fruit becomes available; though the mulberries are not yet ripe enough for my taste, the robins and waxwings don't seem to mind.  Cedar waxwings breed across southern Canada and the northern half of the U.S., shifting southward in winter when they roam across the U.S. and Mexico.  Reflecting their sociable nature, these mild-mannered birds generally nest in colonies; unlike many songbirds, they are relatively immune to cowbird parasitism since the cowbird nestlings cannot survive on the high fruit diet that the waxwings feed to their young.
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