Saturday, March 8, 2014

Cedar Waxwings in Metairie

Late winter usually begins the peak Cedar Waxwing season in southeast Louisiana, an odd pattern of seasonality matched by few (if any) other species.  The peak may last through April.  However, waxwings are famously erratic in their migratory movements, and numbers vary drastically from year to year.

I saw two flocks yesterday in Metairie; I hope this portends a good year for them.

The first flock was of about 30 birds feeding in a tree along eastbound West Metairie Ave, just east of Airline Park Blvd.  Most flew off together, northbound.

The second flock, of about 20, was flying north over I-10, between Cleary and Causeway.

Waxwing flocks have a distinctive configuration, tight amorphous clouds of birds, often dozens, flying large distances through the air often without alighting.  They look a lot like starling flocks, but are distinguishable with practice.

When they are around, waxwings often frequent trees with berries or fruits.  A flock may descend en mass, and overwhelm a tree.   Often many will perch in a nearby "resting" tree and zip back and forth to the adjacent food tree, producing a continuous ebb and flow.  A feeding flock is usually noisy, making shrill, soft zzzzzzzzzzzz noises.


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