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Bohemian Waxwings vs. Cedar Waxwings

by Martin Selzer

With the influx of Bohemian waxwings this winter here are a few identification pointers to consider.

Bohemian Waxwing
Nummy Island, Stone Harbor, NJ. 02/10/04
by Karl Lukens

Cedar Waxwing
by A & J Binns


Bohemian Waxwing
(Bombycilla garrulous)

Cedar Waxwing
(Bombycilla cedrorum)

Body coloration (adult)

Cold, uniformally gray back chest and belly

Warm, rich brown on back and chest, belly yellowish

Undertail Coverts



Wings –folded

White patch at base of primaries and on secondaries; yellow and white V-angles on primary tips; red appendages on secondaries

Lacks the white and yellow, but has the red appendages on secondaries

Wings – in flight

Conspicuous white patch at base of primaries and trailing edge of secondaries

No white markings, wing is plain gray

Wings – Tertials

No white along inner edge of tertials

Adult and 1st year – White inner edge of tertials


Rufous tinge to check and forehead, contrasting with body. Little to no white on forehead

Warm brown color, same as breast and back. Thin white line along top of black mask from eye to forehead

Body Coloration (juvenile)

Streaky, plain with rufous undertail coverts; white and yellow spots in wings, no bib (clear throat), yellow tip to tail

Streaky, plain with no markings, white undertail coverts, except yellow tip to tail, no bib (clear throat)

Body Coloration (1st yr)

Same as adult, pale yellow spots in wings, lacks red waxy appendages (secondary wing tips); lacks white tips to inner webs of primaries

Same as adult, lacks red waxy appendages (secondary wing tips)

Length (approximate)

8.25 inches

7.25 inches

Wing Length

14.5 inches

12 inches

Weight (approximate

2 ounces

1+ ounces

Overall Appearance



Females (outwardly similar)


Narrower terminal tail band and often blurred lower edge to bib

Narrower terminal tail band and smaller blurred bib

Bib Color (adult bird in hand)

Male and female have a black bib

Males have a black bid; females have a brown bib


High pitched buzzy trill (rougher than cedar)

“seeee” call, high pitched plaintive whistle; “bzee” call, buzzy trill

When seen in a mixed flock, identification is rather straight forward based on body size and coloration. The Bohemian is a larger, stocker bird. When seen well and in good light, undertail coverts and wing spots are clear diagnostic features. In flight the Bohemian Waxwing looks very much like a starling.

The name Waxwing comes from the bright red coloring of the bare shafts (appendages) on the tips of the secondaries which resembles sealing wax. Bohemian more than likely comes from the fact that it is nomadic (care free) like the gypsies of Europe and Cedar (and cedrorum) from the evergreen tree whose berries it often eats. Bombycilla comes from the Latin and Greek meaning silky tail, and garrulous means chattering.





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