Jun 20 2008

Late-nesters get into the act

Cedar Waxwing (photo by Chuck Tague)By the summer solstice (that’s today) most birds in southwestern Pennsylvania have babies – or at least eggs.  Some are even incubating their second brood after fledging their first babies in May.

Not so with cedar waxwings.  Because they eat fruit, their nesting is timed to produce young when the fruit is ripe.  The fruit season is just beginning now so cedar waxwings are courting.

Yesterday in Schenley Park I heard a high-pitched “zeee zeee” as cedar waxwings flew to a nearby tree.  It was a pair and when they stopped to perch I saw they had a single berry that they passed back and forth to each other.

Feeding one’s mate is a courtship ritual among many species.  (We humans have dinner dates.)   For cedar waxwings it’s especially important because the female does all the incubation and her mate must feed her for the duration.  That’s 12-13 days of carrying one berry at a time.    And despite the fact that they begin to nest in June, they usually produce two broods.

Eventually one of the waxwings swallowed the berry and the two took off together.  What a sweet courtship ritual.  Happy family!

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