Thursday, February 03, 2011

Elegance Personified

The other day someone asked me which is the most beautiful bird I've ever seen. I didn't know what to say, because there are so many beautiful species out there. Now, if they had asked which is the most elegant bird, I wouldn't have hesitated. To my eyes one species stands out above all the others when it comes to elegance: the Cedar Waxwing.

We currently have a small flock of Waxwings on the CyFair campus and I was watching them the other day as they foraged through some Chinese Tallow trees. They were too nervous for me to approach very close but my new lens let me get some reasonably clear photos as they perched high up in the trees.

Even Waxwings can't be elegant all the time, though. Sometimes they just have to sacrifice elegance to give an ear a good scratch.

And a good scratch might have to be followed up with a nice shaking up of those beautiful feathers.


But then it's back to being a fashion plate again.

Bonding Behavior
If you watch a group of Waxwings for a while, you'll notice that some of the birds are clearly in pairs. And in each of the pairs one bird will pick a berry, the partner will "beg" and the first bird will pass the berry over in what is obviously a bonding routine.


Of course, the feeding of one adult by another is a behavior that many bird species indulge in: We often see the male Northern Cardinals in our yards passing sunflower seeds to their partners, who then invariably eat the seeds. However, when I was watching the Waxwings on the campus, I noticed that their bonding display sometimes goes a step further. On several occasions, one bird passed a berry to its partner and then, rather than eating it, the second bird passed the berry back. So at least with Waxwings the bonding ritual isn't always a one-way street. 


Dina said...

These are very elegant birds. Beautiful shots! I've only seen them once in Atlanta. People say they are in Florida but I've never seen them here.

Jeff said...

They are definitely in Florida, Dina. During the winter they cover pretty much the whole of the southern half of the USA, from California to Florida.

Dag Norman said...

Beautiful birds and photo´s, I can see that your new lense is a lot better than the old one, like the "feeding-photo´s" very much.
I have not seen Cedar Waxwing, but we got the Bohemian Waxwing sometimes in the winter, in october we had 20-30 of them around our garden, and they were not nervous, since there were a lot of food around, they are very found of Cotoneaster horizontalis, a plant that your probably have in USA to.


Jeff said...

Hi, Dag. I wish we got Bohemian Waxwings. You can see them in Canada and further north in the USA but, unfortunately, they don't come as far south as the Texas coast.

Dave said...

What a cracking sequence of shots Jeff. Your right too, a stunning (elegant) bird.

I dont know if you ever saw my post on Waxwings on my blog?? Waxing lyrical... check it out in the 2010 archives, even I cant make them look anythink other than Stunning and Elegant


Jeff said...

Great photos, Dave. That first one in particular is a real stunner!