September 02, 2014
Cedar Waxwing Tails
Cedar Waxwings with orange- or red-banded tails began appearing in the Northeastern US and Southeastern Canada following the widespread introduction of exotic honeysuckle in the 1950s. The change from the usual yellow tail bands is thought to be caused by the deposition of a red carotenoid pigment, rhodoxanthin, that is contained in the fruits of some species of honeysuckle. When Cedar Waxwings consume the fruits of the honeysuckle during their feather formation, the tips of their tails can grow orange to red. Honeysuckle can be found across Sapsucker Woods and the surrounding area, and the birds we are seeing on camera could be eating a lot of honeysuckle fruit from June until mid-October. Cedar Waxwings seen on the pond with yellow tails, especially adults, could have previously inhabited an area free of honeysuckle and therefore did not consume the fruit during feather formation. Click 'More...' for a comparison of tail colors.